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A few months ago I was sent a clip from one of my new favorite podcasts called Huberman Lab, where a neuroscience professor breaks down why and how the brain controls our behavior and perception of the world.

In this clip, Huberman broke down a 2018 study from the journal “Nature” showing that forward movement (simply moving and propelling your body forward through walking, running, swimming, biking and more) suppresses the brain’s fear response and encourages us to be more courageous and confrontational, ready to face life’s daily tasks.

This forward movement also triggers the release of dopamine, which helps us have less anxiety and feel happier at baseline.

He went onto explain that this effect is due to the ‘lateralized eye movements’ that our eyes engage in (i.e. naturally moving from side to side as we take in the environment around us) while we’re actively propelling our bodies forward.

These lateralized eye movements can help us to change our feelings and perceptions around difficult memories or current events that are causing us distress… whether that’s related to long held trauma, an argument we had with our partner the night before, or even feelings of anxiety and overwhelm when it comes to unread emails in our inbox.

This is quite literally the basis of how something called EMDR therapy was discovered for treating trauma in the first place, where people either manually move their eyes back and forth or use “tappers” that create an alternating pulse on each side of the body.

I know that many of you are familiar with EMDR via therapy, and it has changed your life just like it has changed mine – but I had no idea walking helps us to mimic these eye moments, too! In a sense, we get a tiny dose of this each time we take a walk, which literally gives a whole new meaning to “clearing your head” of stressors.

“The eyes [and their movements] are controlling our internal state. The eyes are the central nervous system; the retinas are not connected to your brain, they are your brain! They are pieces of brain that were designed to see objects, but fundamentally they were designed for us to set our internal state of arousal or calm.”

– Andrew Huberman

This is just yet another reason to get out there and move today – and one more piece of the puzzle as to why simple, daily walks can truly change your life.

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