27 Life Ideas from a 27 Year Old: #1 Take a Walk
|Early morning walk on outskirts of Kunming, China.|
For the past one month, I have been walking to my work. It used to be 40 minutes door to door but that has changed to about 30 since we moved to a new office. Still, I walk the whatever minutes it usually takes, either mindlessly or listening to the daily pri podcast. The fact that it's spring now has helped. I don't like winters and I especially don't like summers but I can't do much about it anyways. So, I just wake up, do my early morning thing and walk to work.
By the time I reach office, I feel pretty fantastic. My hearts pumping blood, I am a little sweaty and I am present. I quite didn't understand the feeling at first. All that energy and renewed focus was springing out of nowhere. Maybe, I thought, it was the 20 minute meditation that I picked up from February. But I knew, meditation really didn't have a pronounced impact for me from the morning routine experiment I was doing.
Interestingly, I realized some of my favorite writers take long, extended walks to come up with ideas, arguments and counter arguments. Charles Dickens, one of first writers whom I came across in elementary school, was known to take walks during writer's block. Moving our feet for, some reason, stimulates our sub-conscious and the conscious thoughts in ways sitting doesn't. These blogs have them well documented [HERE] and [HERE].
This makes a lot of sense to me. Whenever I sit down to write a blog article it's not because I want to sit down, think about an idea and then put them on paper; it's because I already have an blog concept and I simply sitting to type them down. The general concept of the blog, direction and very rough structure usually spring up when I am walking around mindlessly in the room or heading somewhere to do some boring work or simply when the body is in some kind of motion (on a train, looking outside).
This could also mean that visual stimuli plays a role on the mind. Sitting in our room exposes us to the same objects and sight, however, walking allows us to interact and see a range of colors, things and stuff which we would not normally see when idle. In the book Mindfullness by Ellen J. Langer, has an exercise where Ellen forces the reader to walk unknown blocks around the neighborhood to entice excitement and increase concentration by being present and observant.
Add this to the fact that the breathing is elevated and heart rate up, the rate at which oxygen is circulated on our minds must, most certainly, contribute to how we think subconsciously and process information. There's been enough said about how the brain has to switch between processing information through focused, conscious practice (reasoning) to processing in subconscious (sleeping it over) to make better decisions or create better ideas in general. Deep Work by Cal Newport has a few pages dedicated on how people should adopt being lazy just because our subconscious is as important as the conscious. Walking isn't exactly what couch-potatoes want but experience shows it's a great way to entice sub-conscious processing. I don't bother thinking too much when I am walking. Thoughts just come and go. Some are fun, some are downright depressing.
One interesting point to note is that, if you walking alone or not talking to anyone, you hear that periodic sound of walking. Hearing the same sound over and over again is a practice of mindfulness which is simulated by the sound that our pants or shoes make while in contact.
We can see that walking actually brings the three key senses; breathing, seeing and hearing together. Quite amazing.
Make a daily habit of walking for 20-30 minutes. Don't have the science to back why exactly those minutes. Works for me, might work for you.
While you at it, change walking route every week. I have been finding new ways to reach my office for the past month. Incredibly rewarding experience.
Increase and decrease walking tempo. Research has shown that intermittent acceleration of the body can have improved health benefits. If you have decided to walk, why not increase the wins?