Long daily walks can offer a bit of a reset for your mind.
December was a hard month this year on many levels. I tried to plan ahead and eased up on homeschool assignments and projects. We did not schedule any field trips or big events. Nonetheless, we were beset by medical problems, stress & anxiety, a renovation, and, of course, the pandemic. It was nearly Christmas weekend and I landed myself in the Emergency Room. (Don’t worry, I’m fine now!) After being seen, I was wheeled into the hallway for observation. My phone ran out of battery and all I had to do was lay there for several hours. I realized that it was the best rest I had had all month. Rather than feeling bored or anxious, I simply laid on the gurney and listened to my breath, grateful for it.
We canceled our holiday plans and I went from nap to nap. We packed up the kitchen and the demolition team arrived the Monday after Christmas. It’s been difficult living in a house that has boxes everywhere and a renovation crew arriving bright and early. It’s been stressful, but this is stress I’ve invited in and for which I will be grateful.
In and attempt to better care for myself, I’ve been taking long walks. This morning it was only 19 degrees, but I was sufficiently bundled. The air bit my face, but that easy rhythm left, right, left, right calmed my anxious thoughts. I had been feeling panicked about not getting enough work done or paying enough attention to this thing or that, but I have been giving my mind and body exactly what it has needed- a reset.
Walking is such a simple, basic human activity that we tend to underestimate its impact. Author of “The Artist’s Way” and “Walking in this World,” Julia Cameron says this of walking:
“Nothing brings home the beauty and power of the world that we live in like walking. Moving into our bodies, we embody the truth that as artists we are out to make a ‘body of work,’ which means we must encompass more than each day’s march. A Weekly Walk helps us to acquire such an overview. It allows us to find both perspective and comfort. As we stretch our legs, we stretch our minds and our souls. St. Augustine, himself a great walker, remarked, ‘Solvitur ambulando’ — ‘it is solved by walking.’ “Julia Cameron in “Walking in this World: The Practical Art of Creativity”
Sometimes on my walks I listen to Cal Newport’s podcast, Deep Questions. He will frequently advise callers to take a walk to work out their thoughts. He thinks of walking as active thinking. In his book, “Deep Work,” he quotes Friedrich Nietzsche, saying:
“It is only ideas gained from walking that have any worth.”Friedrich Nietzsche
Uitwaaien- uit… what?
Knowing how much I love coziness and all things hygge, my husband saved me an article from the Washington post about uitwaaien, a Dutch term that has something to do with embracing the cold and wind. I do not enjoy being pried from my cozy spot on the couch drinking a hot beverage and reading good book to dive into ice water. I can, however, be persuaded to walk around the lake because I know that my border collie will have undirected and intense energy otherwise. Despite my reluctance on cold days, the crisp air on my face does snap me back to life.
My dog certainly did not mind the cold and he would have enjoyed another mile, but I decided that it was time to thaw out and get some work done!
3 Simple Things You Can Do to Reset Your Mind Right Now:
- SIT. Check your posture. Straighten your back and align your neck.
- BREATHE. Download the Headspace app, or on your own, and breathe for 5 minutes. If you cannot do that, set a timer for only 1 minute and breathe deeply in through your nose, hold it for 5 seconds, exhale through your mouth.
- WALK. Bundle up for those of you in chilly climates, and walk around the block. If you have time, take 30-45 minutes. If you have a dog, all the better.