photo: Nature's consolation March 31, 2020 C. McLean
Can We Still Walk?
Today in this post I am thinking about walking and the many benefits it provides.
Can I still go for a walk outside? This was among the most urgent and common questions asked by men, women and children alike after it all happened, when we had to stay inside, stay home to be safe and keep others safe after the lockdown. For many walking was a way to do something normal during a time of confusion and upheavel. We didn't want to lose those walks, the activity we knew intuitively was a relatively easy and convenient way to help us feel better.
Walking as an activity, perhaps even as a means of survival mentally and physically, has never been so vital, so important as it has been during these times of the pandemic. It can offer a sense of freedom and flow even agency...a kind of "I can do this thing", feeling.
In his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Csíkszentmihályi outlined his theory that people in a state of flow, if they are intense and absorbed by the activity they are involved in, are happier. I think in this same way walking can counter feelings of restrictiveness and entrapment and carry us to "the zone" that place of openness and flow.
I try to be sure to get several walks in a week because I find during those walks I feel more energetic and happier and the longer lasting benefit is that in my work after the walks I am more productive and creative.
The research supports the connection between walking and creativity. Stanford researchers have found walking boosts creative inspiration. They examined creativity levels of people while they walked versus while they sat and found creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when walking. Creative thinking improves while a person is walking and shortly thereafter (Oppezzo, Schwartz) and creativity levels are consistently and significantly higher for those walking compared to those sitting.
“methinks that the moment my legs begin to move,
my thoughts begin to flow”
Henry David Thoreau
And if I can still walk, I am not sitting here in it , resistant angry or stuck and powerless....I am going out, somewhere, out of it and as long as I know I can go I am not trapped and caught in a thing I have absolutely no control over. Yes I can walk. Even now. Walking is so much more than lacing up the shoes and taking a few steps down the road. If I walk I know in time we will eventually get there.
On Walking by Thoreau
"We walked in so pure and bright a light,
gilding the withered grass and leaves,
so softly and serenely bright,
I thought I had never bathed in such a golden flood,
without a ripple or a murmur to it.
The west side of every wood and rising ground
gleamed like the boundary of Elysium,
and the sun on our backs seemed like a gentle herdsman driving us home at evening.
So we saunter toward the Holy Land,
till one day
the sun shall shine more brightly than ever he has done,
shall perchance shine into our minds and hearts,
and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light,
as warm and serene and golden as on a bank-side in Autumn.
By Thoreau from the essay WALKING
“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Everyday, 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. But by sitting still, and the more one sits still, the closer one comes to feeling ill. Thus if one just keeps on walking, everything will be all right.”
Cheryl L. McLean