One of the things I miss the most about spring, summer and fall is daily walks by myself (I take walks in the winter too, but winter kind of sucks the life out of me and I hate cold). When I say walks by myself, I don’t mean walking while listening to music, a podcast or talking on the phone either. I mean truly distraction free walks. Granted, I live in the city so there is always some semblance of artificial noise, and visual draw but as much as I can, I block those things out.
I’m lucky enough to live close to a large park with long winding trails, which offer the perfect haven for “me time.” Sensory overload is a real problem today, and there is no shortage of research supporting the ill effects. I find taking a long walk and leaving everything behind is symbolic of a more primitive time and helps me clear my mind. Which does a number for my spirit.
Why I Leave Everything Behind
Some people say they can’t stand walking without music or headphones. That’s a real shame. I’ve been told it’s “boring,” which is in direct contrast to how I feel. For me, if I don’t have my phone to play with, music ringing in my ears or the sensation of notification buzzes on my leg, my mind immediately starts to drift into all sorts of interesting places. I LOVE IT. It reminds me of being a kid and daydreaming. I had a big imagination, and I think this is something a lot of people forget how to use. Seriously, think about the last time you daydreamed about an impossible thing and just enjoyed the storyline. I’m often the star of my own movie, but sometimes I go to extremes and get really SciFi (one of my favorite genres).
How Is This Productive?
These daydreams for me are an awesome stress relief. Additionally, more times than not, I usually find answers to problems in them. It’s funny how challenges I am facing in the real world seem to weave themselves in and I’ll find a creative solution I hadn’t previously considered. While that’s not always the case, just taking some time to decompress often gives me a new vigor when I do return to work. This generally leads to me finding answers to the question I previously was banging my head against the wall on. Have you ever heard someone say step away for a little bit, only to find that when you come back you magically all of a sudden see in plain sight the issue and resolve it immediately? In fact, this was the reason I started taking walks in the first place.
I used to be a developer, and sometimes would sit and code for hours on end. Every once in a while I’d find a really tricky problem that no matter how much mental energy I expended I just couldn’t seem to get it to work properly. In almost every situation that happened, as soon as I closed up shop, stepped away and took a break, I’d come back and it was if an epiphany had happened. Magically, I’d find the bug, resolve it, and voila, code processed as expected. This led me to start trying it with other things and after a while, it just became a habit.
Take a walk. Even if it’s a short one. Most of mine start this way. I set out for a 5 – 10 minute walk and sometimes an hour or two later I manage to make my way back. It may seem weird at first and your mind may be scattered, that’s a good sign you NEED the walk in the first place. Just let your mind drift, don’t try and force any particular thoughts. Take deep breaths, look around and enjoy the landscape, listen to nature (or city noises). Observe. Before long, naturally your mind will start to go places and I bet you’ll enjoy it. Daydream for a bit. Whenever you feel ready, head back and get back to work.
I hope you find it relaxing, peaceful, and ultimately hope you find answers. It can be philosophical or work oriented. The point of the walk is for you. It’s time for you to spend with yourself and get away. Let me know how it goes for you, I’d love to hear. Drop a comment on one of our social channels with hashtag #mywalk #productive.