What you learn when you walk alone
Irini V | Mar 8, 2018 | Photograph by: Brooke Cagle
Throughout history, great minds such as Beethoven, Thoreau, Dickens, Darwin and even Steve Jobs famously used walking to stimulate their creativity and nourish body, mind and soul. From a quick 5-minute errand to long scenic treks that last days, walking was their exercise, solace and sanctuary. And they weren’t alone.
High-performing, highly effective leaders and thinkers around the world all regularly use this primal act of mobility to connect with their vitality, their fundamental wildness, their deepest and truest selves.
In a time where civilization and our sedentary, demanding lifestyles have pulled us far away from all of these things, walking, especially alone, has never been more essential.
It’s in Your Biology
Humans have been walking since, well, we were humans. It is pre-historically in our nature to walk, and has health benefits that have been scientifically proven over and over.
Not only is walking a low-impact form of exercise – meaning it’s more sustainable for your joints – physiologically you’re going to work your whole body and improve the health of your organs. It increases blood flow to the brain, kicks your digestive system into gear in the morning and provides great mental health benefits.
According to a study published in Environmental Science & Technology, outdoor exercise is linked to “greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement, decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression, and increased energy.”
Remembering also that sitting is the new smoking; it’s time to incorporate walking into your day. Adjust your commute to work so that part or all of it is done on foot, or instead of eating at your desk, use your lunch break to walk to a nearby park or pleasant place to sit and eat mindfully.
Just 30 minutes of walking each day – and it doesn’t have to be all in one chunk – is enough to dramatically reduce your risk of heart disease, colon cancer, breast cancer, and dementia, and it will foster mental health.
Stimulate Creativity, Enhance Productivity
Not only do many claim that they come up with their best ideas while walking, there’s scientific evidence to this effect.
A 2014 study on 176 college students at Stanford University has shown that people are much more creative when they are walking around as opposed to when they are sitting still. When students were walking, either on the treadmill or outdoors, they were 60% more creative in their responses to the set problems than when sitting around. The positive effects continued even after they had sat back down for a while.
Instead of sitting, waiting for inspiration to strike, head outside for five minutes and see if the extra blood flow can get the creative juices flowing. Enjoy the fresh air and the fresh perspective on the problem you’re tackling.
Take leadership and initiate walking meetings outside with colleagues – best done one-on-one. Walk and talk, because the conversation will be more natural and you can problem solve without the usual distractions of the workplace.
Come Back to Yourself
Walking, particularly alone, is truly a practice in mindfulness. There are many reasons that solitary walks have been the object of poems and prose. It can free the mind of clutter and noise and allow you to be alone with yourself and turn inward.
Walking every day means you will have an indispensable daily time-slot reserved for your inner work, where you can think about the bigger picture, explore and develop new ideas and work on your relationships.
If you do it every day for long enough, you will discover it can regrow channels to all the different parts of you. Because when you walk alone you just have yourself and the path, putting one foot in front of the other, with everything else on pause.
Seize the moment to reintroduce yourself to your Self, and find that you will take a more whole you into the world, into your projects and into your connections with others.
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Natalie Hughes founded Miss Independent in 2017, to educate and mentor women and help them make their best career and business decisions. Natalie is an experienced business woman and non-executive company director focused on organisational design, strategy, growth and innovation. Her goal is to help you think differently, work differently and feel in control of your own destiny.
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