“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking” – Friedrich Nietzsche
I started making a conscious habit of taking a walk every day in the afternoon at work. I find it refreshing, helps me think outside of-the-box, and it feels good to focus on my well-being.
Did you know that sitting for long periods of time causes carbon dioxide to build up in the brain? That’s why after a long day of sitting at your desk at work, you literally get brain fog around 3 pm – or should we say brain smog? Walking is an activity that feeds oxygen to the brain – and that’s a good thing. It gets your synapses fired up and the toxins moving through and out of your body. More importantly, walking puts you into a semi-hypnotic state. This is a state where your brain waves are long and low – meaning they are working in a relaxed state. This relaxed state is a highly creative state. One where your thoughts can roam free of anxious restrictions about an impending deadline, or concerns about tasks on a particular project, or how to solve an immediate problem. Instead, your brain and your thoughts are “loose.” And, it’s loose brains that provide sudden visions of enlightenment and illumination.
I find that I come up with my most brilliant ideas and plans when I’m walking. The other day, I had something on my mind. Something big, a question I was trying to answer for myself about a way forward on an important matter. I didn’t have a clue to the answer and it was something that was causing me a lot of angst and frustration – it was just gnawing at me. You know that gnawing, nagging feeling of an unresolved issue you can’t seem to find resolution on? Walking can help with that! There I was walking along the beach – the sun was setting, the waves were crashing on the shore and I was just mindlessly walking. Suddenly, the answer crystallized in thin air and seemed to drop out of the sky.
Nilofer Merchant gives a Ted Talk on walking meetings where she discusses the fact that we are sitting, on average, for 9.3 hours per day! She talks about the virtues of taking walking meetings. Steve Jobs was famous for his long walks around Silicon Valley, and particularly for his walking meetings. It helped him think, stretch his mind, and most importantly, get creative! The thing about walking with someone, is that organically your two brains will sync after about 6 minutes of walking together. This is when you can get some serious Vulcan mind meld going on – where suddenly you just gel and things begin to flow, bounce off, and resonant with each other. This is true, whatever the topic may be.
Have you ever noticed that when you’re out walking with someone, say on the beach, or strolling down a nice tree-lined street looking at the shops, or in the park, how relaxed you are? How much you enjoy just being out and about with each other? How you just seem to easily talk about things, no matter what they are? Ever notice how the other person tends to jive with you in a way – where you can easily banter off each other, or almost complete each other’s sentences? This is because you are in “the groove” with each other. And, it’s a natural occurrence, because your bodies’ rhythms are matching and mirroring to each other, literally creating a co-frequency resonance.
These days I make it a point as part of my daily work routine to go for a walk. Usually, I do this after lunch when my energy is low and my restlessness has kicked in. Ever notice you tend to get bored or antsy later in the day at work? I often find myself having a hard time concentrating late in the day. That’s because you have all this energy stored up in your body that hasn’t been let out, in a sense. You know how a dog gets cooped up all day in the house? You come home and your dog is spinning around going crazy, saying take me for a walk, please! I’ve been locked up all day in this house and I need fresh air, I need to stretch my legs, I need my body to MOVE!
We are a lot like that dog when we sit all day at our desks at work. We often neglect our own well-being by staying chained to the desk. Maybe, we’ll wander the halls and go chat with a co-worker, but that is not nearly the same thing. Now, you may say to yourself I don’t have time to go for a walk. And, trust me, I almost fall into that line sometimes myself, but here’s the thing. You do have time. And, it’s a good use of time. Here are some ways it’s beneficial even if you think you don’t have time.
- You’re getting energized for the job tasks you need to finish for the rest of the day
- You’re focusing on your well-being, which makes you a happier and more productive person
- You’re still thinking about work in some way, either working through a problem or mentally planning out a project plan, or working out an algorithmic equation in your head – whatever it is, work is most likely still on your mind, so in theory you’re still working!
- If you’re spending that time otherwise just starting at your computer screen zoning out or almost falling asleep, then well… it’s a good use of your time!
So, I challenge you to consider doing two things:
1. Go for a daily walk at work
2. Ask a colleague to go with you for a meeting outside
And, if you need some inspiration, just know that many famous people took walks as a daily and habitual way of feeding their creativity and getting work done, like Beethoven, Goethe, Dickens, Darwin, and yes, Steve Jobs.
Think about that for a moment. Now, go get outside and go for a walk.