Relationships

A Daily Ritual That Makes You Smarter

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.)

  1. Since I moved slightly further away from the metro stops, my walk is pretty much built into my commute — 10 minutes from my apartment to the path, then 15 minutes from the path to my job on the other side (I refuse to take the subway and pay extra — except sometimes when the weather is particularly bad or I’m feeling particularly lazy). My commute is longer than it used to be but I do burn more calories and I do like walking!

    But I do like the idea of going for a walk “just because” … I wish I lived closer to nature…

  2. I started walking after reading this and 1 week later I can button my bottom coat button! I live in Paris which is not always smooth sailing for walkers…lots of bumpy cobblestones so care must be taken to watch where you’re going rather than browsing boulangerie windows. Mille Merci!

  3. I swear by that meditate 15 minutes each morning is precious, it calms you, relaxes you, it increase your awareness of yourself and allows to focus more in your job.

  4. Carol says...

    I will read anything your mom says. I wish she had her own blog.
    I am trying to begin each day with a “fasting” walk—barefoot when possible. And end the day with a walk down my steep hill and back instead of watching TV.

  5. Rachel says...

    I love taking walks with my pup, Lulu! It is the best stress reliever. :)

  6. sharon says...

    Walking is definitely good for the soul. I live a 7 minute walk from work, even in the rain I prefer to walk. It gives me time to contemplate my day, pray for my family and appreciate the birds and the fresh air. I sometimes walk into town instead of taking the car, and recently I was particularly stressed and I told my daughter I need to take a walk to “walk off my demons” and 16 km later… It did me the world of good and I was renewed and refreshed when I got home!

  7. Victoria says...

    If it hadn’t been for the walks I take I would have become a Pol Pot-kind of person, for sure. Or so they say my husband and kids ;). And recently I started walking to the ofice and back home 2 days a week…It has made tremendous change on how I face the day/week. I’m a walker, it’s my thing. Great, great post Stella!

  8. Anna says...

    i love this post and the comments so much. i don’t know how you ladies do it, but somehow you consistently manage to pull topics out and frame them in such a way that reminds me of the meaningful parts of my everyday little life and makes them feel more meaningful.

    i love walking. one of our favorite activities as a family on the weekends is to simply walk around our neighborhood. down the street we have a wood chip trail with different blooming things year round (lucky to live in Southern California) and we take our 2-and-a-half and 1-year-old daughters out and let them run wild. they’ve found logs to jump off, SNAILS (that was a big Saturday), flowers, tons of wood chips and all kinds of other little things that just are magical to them. there’s a quote in “The History of Love” where Nicole Krauss says something like, “and they collected the world in small handfuls.” It’s like that. :)

  9. Heather D says...

    My husband and I have started going on a walk when I get home from the office. We hold hands and stroll during some parts, but take some steeper hills and challenge each other to push it in other areas. It’s been a real lift in our marriage.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that sounds wonderful, heather!

  10. janine says...

    I got a dog last summer, and now I find myself out walking several times a day, no matter what! And I love seeing the world through my dog’s eyes – he is fascinated by so many little things… smells, sounds, rustling leaves, snow, other animals, people… it’s so cute and it gets me moving and noticing the little things.

    • Jacqueline says...

      Totally agree! I’ve lived in a city with freezing winters my entire life but I never appreciated a snowstorm until I saw the pure joy it gives my pup. I was never an “outdoorsy” person but he has really shown me how to appreciate seasons, nature and of course sticks. He REALLY loves sticks!

  11. K says...

    I LOOOOVE walking! I live about 1.5-2 miles from work, and while I could take a bus or ride my bike, I most often walk. My husband doesn’t understand it, but nothing allows me to get in the groove more than that 30 min to and from home. Sometimes I enjoy a podcast or an audiobook, but most often I walk without listening to anything and it’s a great way to clear my head.

  12. Aw love this! I like going on walks, too! I always liked walking… but sometimes, you’re right, I don’t really think about doing it, like at work, but I really should! Thanks :)

  13. Samantha says...

    2 walks a day is so much a part if my life that I’ve never given it consideration until this post. Having a dog helps to solidify this habit. Growing up my mom was an antsy mess without her walks. She would even put me in the little red wagon and walk to and from the grocery store despite having a car. Seeing the seasonal changes and breathing in fresh air is always a mood enhancer.