• Mark Wilkinson

Why coaching and walking works so well

You’ll no doubt have enjoyed walking and talking on numerous occasions but what if you were to combine that walk with professional coaching? ‘Walkoaching’ blends performance (or life) - coaching with strolling in a natural outdoors environment to take walking and talking to a higher level. So why walkoach?

Let’s first consider what’s special about coaching. It’s said we increasingly inhabit a ‘VUCA’ world - one that’s Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. Personal performance coaching is one of the best ways of helping you to develop the means to meet life’s challenges and go forward.

How? Neuroscience has discovered that coaching liberates our potential to shift perspective and create new neural pathways in the brain which has much has greater neuro-plasticity – our ability to change - than previously thought. It does this by supporting you to reframe and find solutions through careful listening, powerful, thought provoking and sometimes challenging questions, feedback and reflection. Other techniques a good coach will employ include adapting to your learning style, using your language, repeating or paraphrasing so you feel understood, and demonstrating empathy and rapport.

It’s no coincidence that you and your coach will arrange a time and place that’s optimal for coaching. It might be the thing you want to change causes you some stress. Activation of the amygdalar, the part of the brain responsible for emotions and survival can result in a narrow focus of attention, lack of flexibility, increased sensitivity and resistance to new ways of thinking. You’ll have the most productive coaching session when you therefore feel free of stress and distraction and your internal survival button is completely switched off. Coaching itself will help but however well your coach has built rapport and made you feel at ease the environment will also have an impact.

When you need thinking time how often do you seek a busy human made environment over one that exposes you to nature, such as a park? Biophilia is the theory that humans have an innate need to affiliate with the natural environment, because it’s the one in which we evolved (Wilson, 1984). An increasing number of research studies back it up, finding that natural environments, and even office environments made to look and feel natural, have a restorative effect on us, lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol, heart rate and blood pressure. Respondents to the Human Spaces Global Report who worked in environments with natural elements reported a 15% higher level of well-being, a 6% higher level of productivity and a 15% higher level of creativity, for instance.

You want to shift up your thinking so arrange some coaching: check; you and your coach find a calming natural environment for it: check. So why walk as well? Because everyone who has walked and talked knows it’s just the most natural and pleasant way to cogitate, reflect and explore ideas, the gentle movement keeping your blood flowing and the natural sights and sounds enlivening your senses and keeping your awareness open. It’s also easy to be in rapport with someone when they’re walking beside you rather than sitting across from you. And it’s backed up by research. A 2015 Stanford University study showed that walking in a park helped urbanites stop ruminating - mentally mulling the negatives thoughts associated with risk of depression. And a study in the UK by Gidlow et al in 2016 demonstrated enhanced relaxation and restoration and stronger short‐term cognitive benefits from a mere 30 minute walk taken in a natural environment compared to an urban one.

So there you have it. You always knew there was something to walking and talking and now you have the evidence for it. But don’t rest there. Give you or your employees a walkoaching session and decide for yourself.

#neuroscience #biophilia #walkandtalk #Personalperformancecoaching #lifecoaching

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