Other News

An ode to the humble daily walk

I’ve never been an athlete, but I’ve always found a great deal of relief and enjoyment in simply walking around outside. I’ve been told that this isn’t the most time-effective activity in terms of fitness (that’s fine with me) and also that I could be doing more, well, exciting things (also fine with me). Sometimes I do listen to music or podcasts while I walk, but I can easily walk for say, five or six miles with just my own thoughts and pace. For me, these walks are a low-key opportunity for me to reflect on my feelings, my goals, and how my day is going. I don’t have an explicit “gratitude practice,” but I think these walks fill a similar goal.

The obvious caveat here is that walking around your own neighborhood can become … dull. I intentionally look up different routes to keep things interesting. I also like to look up self-guided walking tours (yes, the kind aimed at tourists) to see my area from a new perspective. I’m a big fan of street art and murals and have found some really lovely art with this approach, too. 

Regular walks can also be a great opportunity if you want to spend time with a pet, whether you’re being paid to dogsit or want to volunteer to walk dogs (or even cats!) through a local rescue or shelter. I haven’t tried this myself, but it’s an idea I keep returning to as I think spending time with animals can really work wonders for mental health and enjoyment. 

You also don’t need to walk for as long as I do. Studies have shown that even a small amount of walking—I’m talking 10 minutes outside—can help improve your mood, especially if you are privileged enough to walk around some greenery. Other studies have suggested that people who walk for an hour three times a week had more efficient decision-making brain activities than people who didn’t. Yet another study suggested that for adults who take daily walks, you might see a positive impact on both the quality and length of your sleep.

Full disclosure as I discuss all the things I love about my walks: I should also share that I work with a psychiatrist, and have for over a year now. Taking my daily antidepressant has done wonders for both anxiety and mood. I’ve always been into these walks, and they’ve always helped, but for me, these walks plus medication have truly dramatically changed my quality of life and enjoyment for the better.

I point this out because I don’t want to come across as though taking a walk (or picking up yoga, or going for a jog, or so on) is the magic cure for hard feelings or low periods in your life. It might certainly help, and there are benefits to be had, but there’s nothing “wrong” or “broken” about you if it just isn’t the right fit. 

What are some of your favorite low-key, low-pressure activities to do outside? Does it change with the seasons? How has COVID-19 changed the way you view your outdoor time (if at all)?

Source link