Walk Yourself Out of Your Bad Mood

Content note: reference to depression and suicide

 The background image is a muted-filtered dark photo of a winding asphalt walking path through a foggy wooded area. The white serif font reads, "WALK yourself out of your bad mood. Studies show that even a 10-minute walk immediately BOOSTS brain chemistry to increase happiness." -Karen Salmansohn." The macro itself is attributed to "Inspiring Quotes."
 The background image is a muted-filtered dark photo of a winding asphalt walking path through a foggy wooded area. The white serif font reads, “WALK yourself out of your bad mood. Studies show that even a 10-minute walk immediately BOOSTS brain chemistry to increase happiness.” -Karen Salmansohn.” The macro itself is attributed to “Inspiring Quotes.”

Fuck therapy, sad sacks.

Y’all obviously aren’t walking enough.

Who needs drugs to manage their mental illnesses when plain old movin’ your body parts will do the trick?

And just to preemptively address the anger I’ve created in the pro-walking community I’m imagining in my mind: please recognize your big feelings and take a few moments to sit with them. (That’s the kind of advice I’ve always resented, because it actually is pretty helpful.)

I’m not writing this up because I don’t think walks can ever be good for anyone’s mental state.

I advocate for movement when feeling funky, in all senses of the word.

And it’s true that the reasons walking can help boost your mood actually do boil down to “brain chemistry,” since chemical reactions in your brain literally inform your experience of every single thing.

But people don’t die by suicide because they’re a little grumpy about missing their evening constitutional.

Consider the possibility, if you have not experienced depression (or if you have experienced it in the past but feel better now) and you agree with the sentiments expressed in this macro, that you might be projecting your own experience onto people who are dealing with something very different from your own experience.

It may not have been the intent of the original author to go into full medication-shaming mode, but those sentiments are rampant in Positive Thinking Land.

I Googled the person that the quote is attributed to, and I had to go take a 10-minute walk to be able to review her site more charitably.

I will just say this: I came across another pithy quote macro on her site in which she introduces her proposal for coining the new word “blesson.”

This is indeed an unfortunate blending of “blessing” and “lesson,” which she defines as “what happens when you see the blessing in the lesson that your challenge taught you.”

I’m clearly not her target demographic. It looks like she probably offers some decent resources that aren’t entirely shame-based or victim-blamey, but her whole ethos is buried under so much toxic positivity that I can’t take the good parts seriously.

To each their own. If she has helped you in the past or seems helpful now, I do genuinely want for you to be helped. Please try to hold onto at least a kernel of the healthy skepticism I advocate for, but do what you need to do for you.


We all know that Big Pharma sucks, right?

A lot of kinds of research-based evidence for medicating all kinds of mental health diagnoses are actually sketchy as hell.

And at the same time, casting aspersions on the people who have chosen to rely on available medication to make their lives feel more manageable is not going to cause the collapse of the legal drug industry any time soon.

I get the impression that arguments like this one – the old “have you tried NATURE?” schtick – are not about resistance to capitalist neoliberal oligarchy etc. as much as they are about preserving the moral high ground that appears to exist within the WellnessTM branch of that same oligarchy.

Psychiatry’s public-facing emphasis on brain chemistry is to some degree an effort to legitimize the medical reality of potentially life-threatening diagnoses like depression.

I mean, there’s also dirty money and institutional pressure to pathologize humans’ normal reactions to abnormally difficult situations.

You win some, you lose some.

Even if that emphasis on brain chemistry began as a tool of the pharmaceutical industry, it’s still true that the concept has helped muster more widespread support for letting people seek help for their problems.

Concepts like “brain chemistry” have also become part of public discourse because there are a lot of non-depressed people who prefer to assume that depressed people are just bad at existing.

It’s still important to legitimize the fact that depressed people need support, even if drug companies will inevitably exploit that information .

The point here is that there are lots of internet folx (who, it turns out, also exist in the non-internet world) who don’t believe in using medication to balance out “brain chemicals” because they are super sure that there are better ways to get un-depressed than “professional medical treatment.” 

I mean, sure.

Sweeping structural and systemic change that prioritizes individual security, access to health care, and an overall sense of purpose are really nice ways to combat depression.

Exercise, vegetables, water, and sleep are also pretty good.

It just also happens that the same WellnessTM Industry that promotes disproportionate numbers of images of fit, serene women doing yoga and drinking from recycled glass bottles is simultaneously invested in keeping the public focus off of neurotransmitters and back on “lifestyle choices.”

The connection between those narratives is very clearly highlighted in this macro.

Neither the Big Pharma or WellnessTM frameworks truly offers some kind of objectively moral high ground to shame other people for struggling to cope with this nonsense world. We’re all competing with way too many systems that are rigged against us to be able to push back against all of them and fully thrive in equal measure (as tempting as that sounds).

Anyway, in a conclusion that’s allowed me to bury the lede, let it not remain un-noted that neither a bad mood nor severe depression are just about “not enough happiness.”