An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.Henry David Thoreau
One of the first things I noticed when stay-at-home orders began trickling into place around the country were how many people were suddenly outdoors playing basketball in the driveway, riding bicycles, walking, and running. Just the sight of it felt as if the earth was slowing on its axis to a time when life was simpler and we valued play, being outside, and physical movement. Only then, we didn’t consciously think about “needing” to do those things because there weren’t digital distractions and sixty-hour work weeks. It seems we genuinely found more value in being, than we did in doing. Memorizing what I saw out my window, I inhaled and made a secret promise to myself, repeatedly actually: “I don’t want to lose this—this feeling of simplicity and humanity.”
When the world speeds up again, and it will, what if we refuse to hand over our more natural lifestyle for a return to screens, and desks, and cars, and four walls? Certainly, one way could be walking. It’s something many of us have done a lot more of during the weeks of less work, working from home, and closed gyms. And the benefits have been tangible. Some of the impacts include:
Walking gives us time to think.
It gives us time to reflect on what is going on in the world and the variety of ways it is impacting our families and communities. It gives us time to process the news and consider adjustments we need to make in our shopping and weekly routines.
Walking gives us a break from thinking.
When I need a break from thinking, which is often these days, I really take a more arduous route in my walk. Sometimes the climb up a few hills, or in the heat from the mid-day sun will make me focus more on the walk. No thinking, no worrying, no planning…just being. Walking offers an effective mental and emotional disconnect.
Walking can be spiritual.
If you are one, like me, where it’s hard to “turn off,” focus your attention on just quieting your mind. For this, changing your regular walk routine to somewhere more comforting like the beach or a high vantage point might allow you to connect more with your inner being. Use the new perspective of your walk to as an active time of prayer, meditation, or simply practicing gratitude and warm thoughts toward others and ourselves.
Walking can be social—even with proper distancing.
We can walk alone and just see other people. These days, it seems there is more waving, smiling, and eye-contact. Look, other humans! Or, walking with family, or one or two girlfriends (at a distance), can give us time to catch up, vent, and connect. It is possible to get out with friends and catch-up on our lives during a hike or long walk.
Walking allows us to literally widen our vision.
We have become so accustomed to up-close screens and four walls. Next time you walk or go outdoors, see if you notice the physical tension leave your eyes and face just from changing your gaze from close-up to far away when you look at the horizon, the clouds, or landscaping in the distance. It’s a big wide world out there. Take time to experience it and lose yourself.
Walking gives us a change of scenery.
Particularly since we are spending more time in our homes, walking gives us opportunities to get outside of our living rooms and kitchens—even a needed break from the noise of children and TVs. Once the “shelter-in-place” guidelines started, I would get in my car every other day and take a long drive. I still do this because it allows me to see other things and escape my immediate neighborhood. If you have the time, try driving somewhere new, get out where you’re inspired and take a long walk. The newness of a place has definite rejuvenate benefits. Of course, we all know there are physical and physiological benefits to walking too, like: improving circulation, lowering blood pressure, strengthening bones, toning muscles, and increasing flexibility. Walking helps naturally reduce anxiety and depression. It improves breathing, offers an energy boost, and even improves sleep.
But more than ever, while the earth has slowed its roll, maybe we walk for the sunshine on our faces and the breeze in our hair. Maybe we walk to pause the day, hear the birds, and connect with our loved ones, or simply ourselves.