Oh, the Joys of Walking
“We ought to take outdoor walks, to refresh and raise our spirits by deep breathing in the open air.” — Seneca
Taking a walk outside is such a joy for me. Sure, my doctor says I need to walk more for bone health as my bone scan says I am osteopenia. And it can be a good aerobic exercise, of which I get precious little otherwise. But I just love to commune with nature and anything else that happens around me. Depending upon where I am walking that can be some fragrant flowers or construction work on the townhouses going up next door. Nothing like watching men working! Sights abound for those who walk.
I see many people walking with their heads down looking at their phones. I think we have all seen the videos of these people stepping out into traffic or an open manhole. Dangerous situations they are for sure. I’ll never understand why people cannot disconnect from their social and work lives. What is wrong with taking in your surroundings? The world is full of wonders. Look at the kids playing hopscotch, the geese wandering around foraging, or the panhandler on the corner. Life plays out all around us, and many miss it. Recently while walking, I noticed some kids picking raspberries off a bush. I would never have known I had fresh raspberries nearby if I wasn’t paying attention.
If you really want to be social, skip the social media and bring an actual human being such as a friend or family member with you on your walks. The both of you can motivate each other to keep up the pace and not quit. Friendly conversation can also make time pass more quickly for those that need it. An hour walk can go quite quickly in this fashion. Just keep the conversation light and do not pick topics that will get you angry and raise your blood pressure. The walks are for exercise and enjoyment. If you do not enjoy it, you will not continue long.
If you regularly walk on a certain trail or street, you will notice the passage of time. Changes occur both in nature and in your community. You will watch kids grow up, and puppies become dogs, new people moving in and out of your neighborhood. In nature, you will notice how humans impact your trail. Look at the trash that appears out of nowhere, how trees change with the seasons, the birds building their nests, listen to their songs, look for animal tracks and see if you can identify them. Much is learned from watching nature and humans interact.
Others prefer to bring their MP3 player along and listen to music. I do that when I want a good workout or need some motivation to get moving. Music can help to push us and keep up a pace that is beneficial to the heart and lungs. I prefer music when the weather does not cooperate, and I have to go on the treadmill instead. Walking in one spot in not conducive to enjoying your walk. Looking at a wall is boring. Without music on those walks, it would be over real quick. But to get a daily walk, we need to do something when nasty weather strikes.
Walking, as a sport/hobby is wonderful in the fact that you can do it anywhere. When on vacation, a hike is a great way to get to know the area. Driving around makes everything go by so fast and doesn’t give you time to take in the ambiance of the area. Walking allows you to do that. You can see the sights, hear the sounds, and become part of the environment. Whether you are in a community or the country, you will find that a walk will bring you closer. You will leave your vacation with a better understanding of the place and people.
Do You Enjoy Walking?
“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness; I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.” — Søren Kierkegaard
Anxiety and stress can melt away from you when you walk. As someone who has experienced anxiety, I know how debilitating that can be. A therapist recommended walking at the first signs of anxiety, and it does help tremendously. Many times I will not know what brings on an anxiety attack, but walking and breathing the fresh air will take it away. While walking I can think about how stupid it is to feel anxious over nothing; I berate myself; I take in nature and breathe deeply of the different scents. I do prefer natural scents to the traffic of a cityscape, but walking just, in general, will help calm you down.
Have a problem or decision to make and are stumped as to how to handle? Take a walk, and while enjoying the scenery think about it. Look at the problem or decision from all sides. Many times a nice walk will help me come up with the solution to my problems. Walking alone just helps my mind to think clearer. Sometimes it is just good sense to walk away from where you are stuck. Different sights and sounds can clear your mind of the stress and put it into focus. I have used this method when I am suffering writers’ block and need some inspiration. Works every time!
“Thinking is generally thought of as doing nothing in a production-oriented culture, and doing nothing is hard to do. It’s best done by disguising it as doing something, and the something closest to doing nothing is walking.” — Rebecca Solnit
So the next time your muscles are cramped, or you are in a quandary about something, take a walk. You will probably learn something about yourself and your surroundings. Walking isn’t just about the exercise, although that is a nice bonus, it is about the sensations and experiences. Stress relief is yours if you just take a walk. Take the time to reflect and breathe deeply. Your mind, body, and spirit will thank you for it.