In his long essay, Walking, Henry David Thoreau wondered if the chores that keep women inside, without the freedom for long walks, were a source of unhappiness for them. There is certainly medical evidence that exercise helps beat depression and anxiety. And walking outside is said to lift the spirits more than walking on a treadmill.
Thoreau explained that his main interest was not in walking as exercise, but walking as a way to connect with nature, life, and ourselves. Happily walking can be whatever we want, or need it to be, for whatever stress or waves of depression we are dealing with.
Power walk when you are dealing with stress and anxiety. Fierce, pound the pavement walking burns off adrenaline, and helps us consume more oxygen for our brains. By walking off anger and frustration, you can release the tension and anxiety, rather than try to drown it in food or alcohol induced numbness. Once the adrenaline is gone, we can breathe easier, and begin to truly calm down.
Walk gently when you would rather hide in bed. On days when all you want to do is hide under your covers, you can still often summon enough courage to walk, if you try. Take it one simple movement at a time. First, just get up. Put on clothes and shoes, and wash your face if you want to. Just don’t get stuck staring at yourself in the bathroom mirror, and wishing you were someone else.
The rest is pretty simple. Pick one foot up, put it down, and repeat with the other foot. That is all you have to think about. Not where you are going, not how you look. Just keep taking one more step.
If I have made this sound overly simplistic, it is because I know how hard one simple step can be. Get outside. If the sky is blue, take in the blueness. Blue is the color that is supposed to have the highest anti-depressant qualities. Breathe the air. Listen to music if you want to, or simply listen to life. Each step eventually becomes easier than the one before.
Use walking meditations to cheer your soul. Meditating while walking can be a lovely experience. Your body moves into a slow rhythm, in pace with your breathing, and your mind begins to clear. You can set aside any thoughts of anxiety or stress, and simply enjoy your inner stillness.
Gardens, parks, and beaches are all great places for walking meditation. The ground should be level, without interfering traffic. And if you need to simply walk back and forth in a small space, that’s no reason to avoid it. Take in the scents of flowers and grass, or the sounds of birds, and then happily release them again.
Combining your quiet walk with a meditation of smiling or kindness, may add to your feeling of harmony and peace.
It doesn’t really matter how you do it. Just get out and take a walk.