A long walk to psychological freedom: a phenomenological study of long distance walking

Crust, Lee and Keegan , Richard and Piggott, David and Swann, Christian (2011) A long walk to psychological freedom: a phenomenological study of long distance walking. In: BPS North East of England Conference, October 21st 2011, York.

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Official URL: http://www.bps.org.uk/events/north-east-england-br...

Abstract

Evidence has suggested that regular walking can elicit significant physiological and psychological health benefits although few studies have examined the impact of long distance walking. Walking research has tended to ignore the subjective experiences of walkers, and instead focus upon walking as a mechanism for treating health disorders. However, the positive psychology movement has begun to shift focus from simply treating or alleviating mental illness to studying and understanding positive human functioning and flourishing. This research aimed to provide rich, detailed accounts of the experiences of long distance walkers. Phenomenological interviews were conducted with six participants (M age = 39.6 years, s = 9.0) who had completed at least a 6-day long distance footpath in the previous six months. Data was transcribed verbatim before four researchers independently analysed the transcripts. Key themes were agreed and a comprehensive member check was included to enhance the authenticity and trustworthiness of interpretation. Participants reported an immensely positive experience that was characterised by enjoyment, deep relaxation, task immersion, challenge, detachment / freedom from responsibility, reflective thought, and positive social interactions. At the end of the walk, participants experienced bittersweet feelings, subjective well-being, clarity of thought and personal growth. Participants reported a cumulative effect with feelings of well-being and relaxation increasing throughout the duration of the walk. This study is one of the first to explore the experiences of walkers who chose to walk long distances. Future researchers should be encouraged to further investigate experiences of walkers, especially with regard to age, experience, and gender.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Presentation)
Additional Information:Evidence has suggested that regular walking can elicit significant physiological and psychological health benefits although few studies have examined the impact of long distance walking. Walking research has tended to ignore the subjective experiences of walkers, and instead focus upon walking as a mechanism for treating health disorders. However, the positive psychology movement has begun to shift focus from simply treating or alleviating mental illness to studying and understanding positive human functioning and flourishing. This research aimed to provide rich, detailed accounts of the experiences of long distance walkers. Phenomenological interviews were conducted with six participants (M age = 39.6 years, s = 9.0) who had completed at least a 6-day long distance footpath in the previous six months. Data was transcribed verbatim before four researchers independently analysed the transcripts. Key themes were agreed and a comprehensive member check was included to enhance the authenticity and trustworthiness of interpretation. Participants reported an immensely positive experience that was characterised by enjoyment, deep relaxation, task immersion, challenge, detachment / freedom from responsibility, reflective thought, and positive social interactions. At the end of the walk, participants experienced bittersweet feelings, subjective well-being, clarity of thought and personal growth. Participants reported a cumulative effect with feelings of well-being and relaxation increasing throughout the duration of the walk. This study is one of the first to explore the experiences of walkers who chose to walk long distances. Future researchers should be encouraged to further investigate experiences of walkers, especially with regard to age, experience, and gender.
Keywords:positive psychology, phenomenology
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C800 Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C841 Health Psychology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Sport and Exercise Science
ID Code:6276
Deposited By: Lee Crust
Deposited On:26 Sep 2012 21:52
Last Modified:12 Jun 2014 07:53

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