Healing Practices: Walking

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It all started with this iPhone app I downloaded last summer that tracks the number of steps I take in a day. My goal is 10,000 steps a day, which is what the app recommended for weight control. And so began the long walks, which quickly became a favourite summer activity, whenever I was able to make it happen. Ten thousand steps usually takes me about an hour and a half of walking and/or jogging, on top of my regular (mostly sedentary) day.

If you think that walking is boring, there are ways to make it a fun and interesting activity. One thing I like to do while walking is listen to podcasts. There are so many good podcasts out there and such a wealth of information. (I’ll write a post on my favourite podcasts soon.) If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that another thing I like to do on my walks is stop to appreciate the flowers and sometimes take pictures of them. I also like keeping an eye on the sky because clouds and sunsets take my breath away. When I’m walking a trail, I like listening to the sound of birds, the crunch of dirt on the path under my feet, the water rushing downstream, the leaves blowing against each other with the wind, and whatever else happens to be in the soundscape.

Long walks are rejuvenating for your body and your brain. Research shows remarkable mental and physical health benefits to taking walks. They help declutter your soul, bring clarity to your mind, and are good for your heart (both your physical heart and your emotional heart). And it’s a great problem solving activity. Sometimes, when I’m working on a paper for school, after I’ve done all my information gathering and just before, or midway through, the writing process, I leave everything and take a half hour walk. This activates a flow state and my papers turn out better than if I had sat there and worked straight through. Usually when I’m walking to help clear my mind or problem solve, I don’t listen to podcasts, instead I turn my attention to my surroundings and practice being mindful and completely present where I am.

I’d encourage you to find some time, today or this week, to leave your house, pick a direction, and walk. And while you’re walking, be in the moment and enjoy your surroundings. You will feel lighter, happier, more alive, and accomplished. And don’t take just my word for it. Steve Jobs walked. Beethoven walked. Darwin walked. Dickens walked. Jesus walked. Poets and prophets, gurus and pundits, business people, inventors, engineers, artists, scientists, musicians, the unemployed, and many other brilliant people made the practice of walking a part of their lives, and they were better for it.

Grace and peace.

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