Sometimes the simple things, activities that have been part of people’s lives for many years, are also the most important. It’s like choosing to eat dessert last, you know? I can remember as a child thinking that when I grew up I would eat dessert all the time. For a while I did eat dessert frequently and chose it instead of veggies and whole grains. Ice cream, chocolate pie, and cheesecake all sounded so much more appealing than green beans. Desserts tasted so good! Others must have thought the same because sugar has been added to most of the foods we eat. But even though we can create sugar filled foods (even vegetable dishes can contain sugar these days) that doesn’t mean it is good for me. There was wisdom in making dessert a treat, something you eat occasionally after eating the food your body needs. Too much sugar is not good for the brain or the body in the long run.
That brings up going for a walk. Not running or jogging to break records and timing each segment to set your pace. There’s nothing wrong with that type of exercise, it’s just that going for a walk is different. Going for a walk is about exercise, I don’t mean that it’s not. It burns calories, can lower your blood pressure, boosts immune function, boosts your mood and lowers your blood sugar. Walking at a fast pace can hep extend your life. But there’s so much more involved in going for a walk.
Going for a walk could be adding pleasure to your life as well (an emotion regulation skill). Enjoy your walk. Breathe. Take in the joy of being on a walk with your pet or just on a walk to take in the amazing world of nature. Sounds of nature, sights of nature, sounds of music–all can be pleasurable. If you walk in the city, there’s so much to see and observe. You add interest and novelty, which are also mood enhancing.
Go for a walk with a friend or a family member. You are adding another aspect of mental and physical health. Walking together with someone else gives you an opportunity to just be with that person, free from distractions of electronics and tasks that need to be done. You can also be mindful of others on your walk and greet them. Connecting with others is part of living with contentment.
Ah, add mindfulness! When you are walking mindfully, you are in the present moment. You are mindful of the person you are with and what they are telling you. You can listen mindfully, without judgement and in a way that builds your relationship (effectively). You can also be mindful of your surroundings. Choose a walk in a park or gardens or in an interesting area of town. Walking in this way can be soothing and calming, reducing your stress.
Going for a walk isn’t a fancy new development. Yet going for walks consistently, something that many used to do, can make a difference in your life.