Today when someone goes outside to “get some fresh air,” what they may actually mean is that they need to refocus and clear their mind. The origins of this idiom date back to over a century ago. In the early days of interior design, it was commonplace for lead to be a component in paint or in the glue that adhered wallpaper. Unsurprisingly, it made inhabitants nauseous or woozy if they spent too much time indoors, so they would go outside to clear their heads and “get some fresh air.” Removing themselves from the lead-laden room would literally provide them with clean oxygen and a clearer head.
While the motivation to steal a moment away for yourself out of a poisonous space may have changed, the idiom remains in regular use to this day — why? Some experts say that taking a stroll has psychological benefits, not just physical ones. A recent study suggests that a short walk mid-workday — like during your lunch hour — can lift your mood, leaving you feeling more focused and more likely to positively contribute to the task at hand.
Your walking meditation mantra.
The act of walking allows you to remove yourself from distractions and hone in on whatever you’re facing. You’ve probably heard of the many benefits of meditation, but maybe you thought it wasn’t for you or that you lack the focus to commit to it. Think of a quick stroll as a walking meditation. Focus on your breathing, taking long breaths in for four seconds, then back out for four seconds. You can also pick a mantra to concentrate on and consider what it means to you.
- “Make the choice, to take a chance, to make a change.”
- “I change my thoughts, I change my world.”
- “Let it go and let it be.”
- “You are the sky, everything else is just the weather.”
- “I am strong. I am confident. I am enough.”
- “I am grateful for all that life provides and all that is yet to come.”
How long should you walk?
Aim for 12 minutes if you have the time available. A study found that a short stroll can turn your mood around, even when your expectations don’t match. This can be linked to a release of endorphins, a feel-good-hormone your body naturally releases when you exercise.
Ever find yourself facing a problem you can’t solve or are stumped by a new challenge? It’s time to take a walk! Here’s how to keep yourself accountable and moving:
- Schedule walk time at work.Block off your calendar for 10 minutes every other hour of your workday. Take this time for a bathroom break, a refill on your water or a casual stroll around the office. The important part is that you get moving and clear your head.
- Invest in a fitness tracker. Ranging in price and capability, there are fitness trackers available for every budget. The popular brand Fitbit has automatic reminders to make sure you get up and move every hour for at least 250 steps.
- Make your next social outing mobile. Meet up with a friend and catch up first; maybe discuss things that are currently bothering you or go gover general topics you want to work through. Then, take a silent walk together and meditate over what you discussed. Having a friend with you keeps you accountable and makes sure you see the walk through when you may be in the mood to just give up.
- Take the long way to work. If you happen to travel to work via public transit or walk for part of your commute, take the long way. Because you’re already out and about, it takes a lot less effort to get started. If you drive to work, consider walking to complete your errands instead of driving there.
1Blackmon, S. (23 March 2018). A daily ritual that makes you smarter. Retrieved 17 April 2018, from https://cupofjo.com/2018/03/walking-makes-you-happier-smarter/
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