How Walking Promotes Clarity and Creativity
|Image by Jenn Vargas, CC.|
I walk every day. On days when the weather makes it impossible to walk, I still get outside and walk even a little bit, just a few blocks and back in the rain or the freezing cold. Walking is a necessity.
The New Yorker published an article in September 2014 called Why Walking Helps Us Think, by Ferris Jabr. It explores how walking actually affects our physical and mental being. Jabr wrote:
"When we stroll, the pace of our feet naturally vacillates with our moods and the cadence of our inner speech; at the same time, we can actively change the pace of our thoughts by deliberately walking more briskly or by slowing down.
"Because we don’t have to devote much conscious effort to the act of walking, our attention is free to wander—to overlay the world before us with a parade of images from the mind’s theatre. This is precisely the kind of mental state that studies have linked to innovative ideas and strokes of insight."
Walking can help us make sense of the world and process information, too. It happened this week to me. I started when I felt overwhelmed because I had just learned that my life and work were about to take a few turns that seemed very much out of my control. The need to walk was unstoppable.
What happened is my partner and I learned recently that we'll be moving to Washington D.C. very soon, and after that, we will move somewhere else in the world, though we don't know where yet. At first, I had hoped to keep my writing job full-time from Washington, but the management team didn't quite agree that an arrangement of that sort would work. The organization needs someone in-house to replace me for the on-camera work I do. Plus, the lifestyle I'm about to lead isn't reliable enough to promise 40-hours a week of work during New York business hours. The result is that I'll still be writing for the same publication as a contributing editor, but in a freelance or contract position.
Having someone else make this decision and tell me it is what is happening felt like a ton of bricks hitting me face-on. Face-to-face, I am very well composed, and I know none of that emotion showed. But inside, my stomach sank, and I felt a sense of rejection, like I was being pushed underwater.
After I talked with my editor, I walked. And I walked. And the situation very quickly made more sense and felt less bleak. I processed what had happened and swallowed the fact that going freelance is what I wanted to happen. The initial reaction and emotion I had been feeling was tied to the fact that I wasn't in control. Feeling not in control has been a central problem and theme all my life. And walking unquestionably helps.