Ever take a walk, just for the hell of it? Get out in the woods, or amble around a lake? Ponder the swaying of the trees in a light breeze? Marvel at the springtime flowers? Bask in the sunshine and breath deeply in the open air, while you tingle with the light, lingering hint of winter’s chill?
The Germans are an outdoor race. Even with snow on the ground, people are out in the countryside, walking dogs, chatting with neighbors as they stroll through woodland trails. I’ve even seen octogenarians of both sexes pushing their walkers through the snow. Maybe that’s why they seem less frenzied, calmer, and more congenial than many Americans. I think it’s not the walking, as much as it is taking the time to get outside the stress of job and soul deadening routines.
Then comes the first hint of spring. Daffodils sprout in butter yellow bursts, cradled in green, spiked castles. A greenish haze on the black, outstretched arms of the deciduous trees. Presto! The Germans come out in flocks and last weekend, I was smart enough to join them.
Why go for a walk? Ok, there’s the physical health benefits we all know about. But walking also settles my mind and sets me at ease.
I can hear your comments: “I go to the gym. Walking’s a waste of time.” Yeah, yeah, I know. You go to the gym because your friends tell you they go and you don’t want to be left out. It’s the modern mantra: My mind is a wasteland, but just look at my body! You work hard, while you chat and listen to music, or watch TV on the screen in front of the treadmill. Pat yourself on the back. Multitasking, right? Not so fast, my friend.
Nancy K. Napier,PhD, writing in Psychology Today:
“Think you’re good at doing several things at once? Driving and talking on the phone (hands free, of course), or texting while sitting in a meeting? Think again.
Much recent neuroscience research tells us that the brain doesn’t really do tasks simultaneously, as we thought (hoped) it might. In fact, we just switch tasks quickly. Each time we move from hearing music to writing a text or talking to someone, there is a stop/start process that goes on in the brain.
That stop/start process is rough on us: rather than saving time, it costs time (even very small micro seconds), it’s less efficient, we make more mistakes, and over time it can be energy sapping.”
Don’t believe Ms. Napier? Click on the link above and take the simple test.
Then there’s the creative aspect of walking. Maybe you’re just not taking the time to be creative, or not taking the time to let your mind relax and your thoughts delightfully wander.
No time to be creative? In The Art of Creative Thinking, Rod Judkins writes: “Our ability to immerse ourselves in the present is one we must nurture.” He further expounds, “There is an art to doing nothing, intensely…Genius is so rare today because we are so distracted, updated, and connected. Rather than steering life, we’re reacting to whatever pours in.
Dr. Steven R. Covey, author of The 7Habits of Highly Effective People said, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Just another way of saying, do what’s most important to you, and do them first. But, how do you find the time to do that?
Ever get through a day having accomplished a long list of “to do”s and feel as if you’ve accomplished nothing? Perhaps it’s because you mailed a letter, shopped for a sweater, folded the laundry, dusted the living room, sat through a boring meeting, and chatted with friends, before a four hour ballgame on TV, or going to a movie. What you have actually done is put off those things most important to you. Writing a book. Learning a language. Researching the family tree. Sitting quietly for an hour or two to consider what your garden should look like, improving that living room you spend so much time dusting, or reading the book you’ve been meaning to read one day. Strolling is a great time to daydream about your perfect fantasy life, the way you’d really like to live.
So consider this when you think about walking. It’s a time to free your mind from the stuff that clutters it, all day, everyday. No distractions. No music except the wind in the trees. A generous, fabulous outpouring of nature. Flowers. Trees. Even your neighbor’s yard. The colors, the designs. Wonder why daffodils are the harbingers of spring, why evergreens are evergreen and oaks are not, except for live oaks…and wonder about that too.
Angst flees when you think about the things that are important to you. Where should your family go on the next vacation? What are some family games you can play with your spouse and kids that don’t involve a screen and controller? Sure, you talk to your kids, but do you know what’s flitting through their minds?
Here’s a question to ponder: If you were about to exit this life, what are the things you will wish you would have done? Not talking about a so-called bucket list of things to quickly do and superficially see. To me, those buckets are empty.
Most of all, take the time to thankfully appreciate all that you have.
You can do all of those things and more, when you let your mind relax and with a leisurely walk.
Let your mind glimpse the important things. It’s never a waste of time. A long walk. A walk that lets your mind flow like a glassy stream over ideas and questions. Forget TV and multitasking. Do what the Germans do. Go out and stroll. You’ll be happier for it. And healthier.