With everything that has been happening in the world many of my clients are reporting a general unhappiness with their life. Not only do they feel disconnected from friends and family thanks to all the months sheltering in place. They feel disconnected with their own souls. I’ll admit I’ve been feeling some general malaise, too. And then I stumbled upon an “old friend” and realized it’s a guaranteed way to feel better about yourself: go for a walk.
Early during the orders to stay home, I was taking regular walks to keep myself mentally (and physically) healthy. But a spring cool down and series of rainy days got me out of that routine which I never got back into. And trust me, the longer I went without regularly moving my body, the stiffer my body felt.
I also noticed that without regular movement – like choosing to go for a walk – the easier it was for me to feel discouraged, overwhelmed, and cranky.
But I was reminded how good being active is when JB’s mother was here for a visit. Like many of us, she found herself sitting more often than usual during the early days of needing to stay at home. Though she is ninety, she’s always been active, yet she saw her energy levels plummet. So, she committed to getting her steps in each day – even if she has to do them inside. After mastering 2000 steps per day, her new goal is 3000 steps a day.
If a woman who is approaching her ninety-first birthday can commit to getting her steps in, well, that sure inspires me to get moving myself. And while I love riding my bike, lifting weights, and swimming, going for a walk has become my go-to way to get my body moving.
Here’s nine reasons why going for a walk can help you feel better about yourself and your life.
One – Walking requires no equipment except a decent pair of shoes.
No need to air up your bike tires or put on a swim suit when you go for a walk. Just put on some comfortable and supportive shoes (and some sunscreen) and head out. And as much as I enjoy weight lifting (which is good for your bones, too), it requires dumbbells, kettle-bells, or bands.
Life is already complicated. And that’s one of the beautiful things about going for a walk: simplicity. Something I think we all need.
Two – You will feel better about yourself when you feel grounded.
When you are walking, you are literally grounding your body with each step. With all the stress, anxiety, and uncertainty in our lives right now, we need solid practices that help us feel more grounded. It’s one of those simple pleasures that help you feel good about yourself and love your life more.
Three – Walking can be meditative and help you be present.
While I like to keep up a good pace when I’m going for a walk, it’s also an active way to meditate. Meditation has been shown to not just clear your mind, but reduce your blood pressure and even blood sugar. And meditation always makes me feel better about myself and my life.
It also invites you to be fully present, which is a necessity to finding peace and happiness during these stressful times.
Four – What about a gratitude walk?
Gratitude is a proven way to feel better about yourself and your life. In addition to keeping a gratitude journal, consider going for gratitude walks. While taking a stroll, you can reflect upon all the good things in your life. And if you’re outdoors, you can marvel at nature.
Five – Being out in nature can boost your energy which helps you feel better about yourself.
While JB’s mom often does her walking inside to ensure a steady surface, I prefer to go for a walk outside. Though we have some nice walking trails around our neighborhood as well as a treadmill, I often head to a local park for my walks. Being among the flowers, birds, and trees feels life affirming.
Science agrees. A series of studies published in the June 2010 issue of the Journal of Environmental Psychology supports what I’ve learned personally: being out in nature made people feel more energetic.
Six – Going for a walk outside can reduce anxiety.
Almost everyone I talk to has shared their anxiety and stress levels are higher than ever before. And it’s hard to feel good about yourself and life when you’re worrying and stressing out, right? That’s why getting outside and going for a walk is beneficial. And science supports that, too. Another study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that taking a walk in nature reduced anxiety and worrying.
Even if you don’t feel like you have a lot of time in your schedule for exercise, even a quick stroll around the block will help.
Seven – You can get some alone time by going for a walk.
No mater how much you love your spouse or your kids, everyone needs some alone time. So, lace up your sneakers and head out the door for a walk. By yourself. And while I sometimes will talk to a girlfriend on the phone, I am finding more and more that my walk is the perfect opportunity for ME time. No noise except the sound of my feet on the pavement, the rustle of the leaves, and birdsong.
So, while it’s tempting to go with your spouse, connect with a girlfriend, or get your kids moving, try to go for a walk by yourself when you can.
Eight – Going for a walk helps you feel better about yourself creatively.
In Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way, not only does she recommend artist dates and morning pages, she also recommends going for a walk as part of caring for yourself and your creativity. She reiterated that on her blog where she reminds us that walking helps you figure out solutions to problems and gain new perspectives.
Personally, I often get new ideas or the spark of a fresh approach to something I am working on while I am on my walks. And am excited to rush down to my computer to get it all down when I get home.
Nine – It’s the perfect opportunity to get away from screens.
I know I’m not the only one in front of my computer more and more these days. With the need to write, participate in Zoom meetings, and check on social media, my screen time is up for sure. And while it’s nice to talk on the phone – or even play a mobile game that encourages walking – going for a walk is an opportunity to look at the trees and just BE. Besides, if your phone is a part of your walk, you’ll probably find yourself distracted and more anxious.
Get away from your devices and get moving. All the news and emails will be there when you get back.
Take some control in your life by committing to regular walks.
We are living in stressful and unprecedented times. And I know that all the uncertainty adds to all the worries and anxieties of everyday life. You don’t have to allow all that stress to eat away at you, though! Because no matter what kind of shape you may be in, it’s a simple way to do something good for yourself.