Effects of Walking a Labyrinth on Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety and Level of Self-Compassion
Hills, Sara J.
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Exercise and meditation have been shown to improve wellness and to help maintain a healthy lifestyle, yet the effects of meditation and movement together have been largely ignored. This current mixed-methods study utilized a convergent independent three-arm design to explore the experiences and benefits of walking a labyrinth, a form of meditative movement (MM), as a complementary treatment for depression and/or anxiety. College students experiencing depression and/or anxiety who were at least 18 years old from a Midwest university were sequentially assigned to one of three groups: treatment (TG), active control (ACG), or wait-list control (WCG). TG and ACG participants completed 20 minute walking sessions once a week for four weeks in either a labyrinth (TG), on a rectangular path (ACG), or in a labyrinth following a wait period (WCG). This study sought to determine if MM in a labyrinth reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression and raised levels of self-compassion. Observation Oriented Modelling (OOM) results from pre- and post-measures of anxiety, depression, and self-compassion suggested participants in the ACG experienced the greatest reduction in symptoms of anxiety and participants in the TG may have seen the greatest increase in level of self-compassion. Phenomenological analysis of journal entries, naturalistic observations, and open-ended questionnaires suggested the vast majority of participants in both the TG and ACG enjoyed their sessions and found them to be peaceful, simple, and a welcome break from the stress of daily life. Four main themes were found in the qualitative data that may help readers to better understand the experiences of the participants: Expectations vs. Openness, Inner and Outer Contexts, Coping Mechanisms, and Distress Tolerance. Discussions of quantitative and qualitative data intersections are explored and future directions for investigating MM in a labyrinth as a complementary treatment are suggested.
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