The other day I was talking to a friend about how people who smoke have more frequent opportunities to think. They stop whatever they are doing and go outside to smoke, and those breaks allow them to be alone with their own thoughts. Non-smokers such as myself don’t have that.
What I do have, is walking.
As I’ve mentioned in my previous post of this series, I’ve been walking to and from work for about 9 months now, so I have been experiencing some improvements in my health, and particularly in my overall mental well-being, that I attribute to walking and that I would like to share with you. It takes me about 25 minutes to walk to work, which translates into almost an hour walking to and from work every single day. And although 25 minutes doesn’t seem that much to me, in my experience people generally find it surprising that I choose to walk that much, because apparently if it takes more than 10-15 minutes and if it’s not jogging, it’s weird that I don’t drive or take public transportation.
Of course, I am not saying everyone can do this. I am fortunate to live relatively close to my workplace. But still, I want to encourage you to walk as much as you can, as you go about your day. Like most people working a corporate job, I don’t move my body nearly enough to what we, humans, should. I also quite dislike gyms and intense 10 min workouts, or running. I only enjoy (and stick) to exercise when it’s disguised as something else – such as dancing or practicing some kind of team sport. And I don’t know if walking can be considered exercise, but I do know that it gets my heart pumping, my muscles working, and inevitably burns some fat, so I believe it may qualify as such.
But for me, the most life-changing aspect of this new habit relates to what I was talking to my friend regarding smoking. Ironically, when I am walking I am pausing, taking a break from the daily hustle. While walking I often notice the simplest pleasures, the rain, the colour of daylight, if there are clouds in the sky, the silence or the steps of others around me. And then, other times, the opposite: I get totally lost inside my own mind and I find the most incredible silence, even when there is noise around me. Time changes. It slows down. I have time to think without pressure, my mind gets ideas, creativity flows, and I don’t even realise I’ve walked for 25 minutes until I get to my destination. It brings me great joy to put one foot in front of the other, one at a time, without rushing, without being distracted by technology, just breathing, observing the world around me, giving space to my mind, allowing it to wonder. In a way, meditating.
“The walk and the silence are interconnected. The silence is as abstract as the walking is concrete ” – in Walking: one step at a time, by Erling Kagge
In the past 9 months, my endurance has improved and I feel stronger. I avoided traffic, or hopelessly waiting for the bus to arrive. I saved money. I now depend on no one but myself to get to work on time. But most of all, I found that walking clears my head, and being able to do so has taught me a lot about myself.
Seriously, if you can, just go for it. You won’t want to go back.