A Daily Ritual That Makes You Smarter

It takes less than 30 minutes…

For decades, my mom has gone on a walk every day NO MATTER WHAT. I’ve seen her off during ice storms, thunderstorms and even her own holiday cocktail party. “They’ll never notice,” she laughed as she headed for a stroll around the block.

“There are three quick fixes for most of what life throws at you: a stiff drink, a nap or a walk,” she told me. “Usually, the walk is the most appropriate.” For her, even five minutes outside can reset a day. “It’s therapeutic. Plus, nothing gets you out of a slump like seeing the Melton family down the street laughing at their flickering TV. You can see what the entire neighborhood is up from their windows during dusk.”

This winter, I’ve taken up my mom’s tradition, and no surprise, she was right. An evening walk has become a precious part of my week. Even on the nights I would rather to do anything but, I always come home feeling on top of the world. (And I get to listen to this!) So, in order to inspire us all into taking more walks, here are three more convincing benefits:

We’ll be straight-up geniuses. Have you ever been stumped during the brainstorming phase of a project? Take a lap… anywhere. Says behavioral scientist Marily Oppezzo, “A person walking indoors — on a treadmill in a room facing a blank wall — or walking outdoors in the fresh air produced twice as many creative responses compared to a person sitting down.” (A blank wall!!!!)

We’ll make our bosses love us. This 2015 study found that a lunchtime stroll can immediately “buoy people’s moods and ability to handle stress at work.” After a 30-minute walk, participants felt more focused, engaged and enthusiastic at the office.

We’ll get stoked. Moving for just 12 minutes promotes positive emotions like joy and excitement in people, even when they are expecting the opposite, according to a 2016 study. Another study about the walkability of cities found that when someone switches from a long commute to a walk, “their happiness increases as much as if they’d fallen in love.” And there you have it.

Lastly, as Albert Camus said, “Go out for a walk. It doesn’t have to be a walk during which you’ll have multiple life epiphanies… Find meaning or don’t find meaning but ‘steal’ some time and give it freely and exclusively to your own self… you need to breathe. And you need to be.”

Do you like taking walks? Do you have any other routines you swear by?

P.S. Advice to my younger self, and how to be an introvert in NYC.

(Photo by Joel Meyerowitz.)