By Tracy Tilson
Some of our most constructive and creative thoughts come when we least expect them or when we’re simply taking our mind off our current challenges, if only for a brief moment.
Does simply putting one foot in front of the other help create ideas that might not have surfaced if it wasn’t for a simple walk?
For me, it does. When walking, I often find myself coming up with solutions for situations I didn’t know I even needed to solve. It also gives me the space to think about something that was bothering me or needed to work on. Time and time again over the years, a good walk has helped me make an important decision or generate a creative solution to a troubling challenge. Movement and a bit of time to let thoughts come and go can be the best therapy there is.
Besides the obvious physical benefits, walking puts you in a “flow” zone that is hard to duplicate with any other activity. I love walking alone—but if I walk with a friend, my brainstorming kicks into high gear and ideas seem to pour out endlessly. Most of my ideas aren’t doable or practical, but that’s okay.
What I love about walking is that the only barrier besides having a decent pair of walking shoes is your discipline to walk every day, no matter what the circumstances are.
1. Walking is Proven to Boost Creativity
A landmark study out of Stanford University found that creative output increased by a whopping 60 percent when participants were walking.
Through my own walking adventure, I created Walkitate, a platform honoring the role of walking in the creative process. I know that I’m a better “idea person” while I walk and in the moments after. It’s almost like the steps take away competing and conflicting thoughts and put me in a frame of mind that has clarity and compassion. I try to tap into that as much as I can, as I know it can be fleeting as the rest of the day starts to pile on with demands, frustrations and commitments.
2. Some of the Greatest Thinkers Were Walkers
If you walk for inspiration, you’re in good company. Charles Dickens stated that he walked about 30 miles per day while thinking about his writing; Charles Darwin, Steve Jobs and Winston Churchill were all also avid strollers. The wonder of walking even dates back to ancient Greece, when Aristotle created the Walking School (Peripatetic School). The famous philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, sums it up best, saying, “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”
3. Walking Eliminates Distractions
One of the biggest challenges of being creative for your work or business is actually getting yourself into a creative mindset. When we walk, we feel better physically and start to see our thoughts more clearly. Be sure to silence your devices to get the full experience of the walk. Once external distractions are eliminated, stress and anxiety start to fade and our minds can relax. This relaxed state is where the magic tends to happen.
We spend most of our time connected to devices, whether it be the computer or laptop for working hours or smartphones for “leisure time”. But are we ever really relaxing or truly unplugging if we hop on to another device after we spent the whole day on another?
To access the brilliance inside of ourselves, we need to spend time contemplating our ideas, understanding our emotions and motivations and aligning ourselves with our real, true selves. Walking facilitates this process, and in turn those results will show in our work. By the time you end your walk, take a few seconds to take stock of your creative thoughts and how far you came from when you began your walk to when you ended it.
That time spent alone or with a fellow walker can be invaluable, life-changing and so important for you, your ideas and everyone in your world. I honestly can’t imagine a life without lacing up my walking shoes and letting the creative thoughts begin.