A Variety of Movements Linked to Better Wellbeing in Mental Health Patients

A Variety of Movements Linked to Better Wellbeing in Mental Health Patients

A recent study conducted on psychiatric patients indicates that a variety of everyday movements is associated with improved wellbeing. Traditionally, when we consider activities that enhance mental health, we think of deliberate and strenuous exercises such as jogging, cycling, or swimming. However, this study suggests that simply visiting different locations can have a significant positive impact on individuals with depression or anxiety. The research analyzed 106 patients with various mental health conditions, including affective disorders, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, personality disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. The participants were both inpatients and outpatients receiving medical care. The study involved tracking their movements using GPS and completing surveys on their subjective wellbeing, psychological flexibility, and mental health symptoms.

Through comparing the GPS data with the survey results, the researchers discovered a correlation between increased movement and a higher sense of wellbeing, even though the symptoms of mental health issues remained largely unaffected. Notably, outpatients displayed greater movement than inpatients, as expected. Outpatients spent nearly one-third of their day at home but exhibited considerably more movement compared to inpatients who spent most of their time within the hospital. Individuals with phobias or anxieties related to leaving safe spaces demonstrated significantly lower mobility and limited activity areas. However, other mental health symptoms did not appear to have the same effect on daily movements. On the other hand, higher levels of emotional wellbeing and psychological flexibility were consistently associated with increased movement and a more diverse range of activities.

The study’s results suggest that while activity alone may not directly reduce the symptoms of mental health disorders, it can enhance subjective wellbeing. Physical activity has been shown to have substantial benefits for overall wellbeing and mental health. However, most previous research focused on deliberate exercise. The current study contributes to the limited body of research exploring the effects of everyday activities among individuals with mental health issues. It is especially noteworthy as it employs GPS tracking to measure spontaneous movement, which is often overlooked.

Understanding the impact of spontaneous movement in daily life on individuals seeking mental health treatment remains uncertain. However, a small study conducted in 2021 involving 67 participants revealed that everyday activities like walking to the tram stop or climbing stairs contributed to increased alertness and energy. Brain imaging of the participants indicated that those who felt more energetic after movement had a larger volume of gray matter in the subgenual cingulate cortex, which is associated with emotional regulation. Although translating this knowledge into practical applications for preventing and treating mental health issues is challenging, engaging in simple movements could be a harmless starting point. Moreover, spending time in nature may also play a significant role. Research has shown that physical activity in nature during childhood is linked to better mental health outcomes in adulthood. In some regions, doctors are even prescribing time in nature as a means to improve mental and physical health.

Although the recent study utilizing GPS tracking was limited in scope, its findings suggest that movement patterns, including distance, number of destinations, and variability of destinations, could serve as markers of functioning and wellbeing in patients with mental health issues. Further research is needed to validate and expand on these findings. However, the study highlights the importance of encouraging individuals with mental health conditions to engage in a variety of movements in their daily lives, even if intense exercise is not feasible or preferred. Integrating diverse activities can potentially contribute to their overall wellbeing and improve their mental health outcomes.

Introducing a variety of movements into everyday life has been found to enhance the wellbeing of psychiatric patients. The study demonstrates that movement, whether deliberate exercise or spontaneous activities like visiting different locations, can positively impact individuals with mental health disorders. By considering movement patterns and encouraging greater emotional wellbeing and psychological flexibility, healthcare professionals can potentially support their patients’ mental health journeys. While further research is needed to fully understand the relationship between movement and mental health, these findings emphasize the significance of incorporating simple movements and spending time in nature as potential strategies for managing mental health issues.


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