Let’s start from the beginning.
Ever since Plato (423 BC), humanity was plagued by this notion of mind-body duality. Dark Ages have really entrenched the idea that the body is only a vehicle to move around our pristine and godly minds. The flesh pursuits are of lesser concern and don’t deserve much attention.
And this particular idea has seeped into western philosophy. We don’t pay specific attention to the link between the way we treat our bodies and mental performance
- We try to “save time” by sacrificing sleep, resulting in severely diminished productivity and mental skills,
- We sit all day on our asses, getting more and more stressed about some artificial situation, avoiding the solution that our bodies were built for,
- We forget to hydrate or eat properly, because – of course – we “don’t have time.”
How taking a walk can help you get unstuck
Shinrin-YokuJapanese, forest bathing: The immersive experience of spending time in nature.
Spending time in nature has a profoundly therapeutic effect on thinking clarity, overall health, and is a surefire way to lower the stress levels. Shinrin-Yoku (forest bathing) is a recognized treatment in Japan, and British doctors are looking into prescriptions for mindful walks in the woods themselves.
Our bodies evolved in green space, surrounded by trees, shrubs, streams, and rocks. We are familiar with the wild in the core of our souls. This is where our ancestors lived their whole lives, honing their genome to fit the environment.
Is life in a concrete jungle so drab? Can a few hours in a forest significantly improve my mood? I set out to answer these questions.
For a few years now, I document my thoughts in a journal. I have an Evernote-based system, where I mostly rate the previous day and recap what happened.
I will expand on this in another post, but one of the valuable insights I was able to discover is the answer to the question
“What do my happy days have in common”?
Every quarter or so, I review my notes and try to tease out what consistently made me happy during this time.
Over and over again, spending time in nature (and preferably good swimming) is at the top of the list.
Maybe it is because I was a scout for 11 years, and I am trying to reproduce the conditions of my youth. But perhaps it is because I am a human being, and this is the environment where humanity was thriving in for millennia.
I try to plan my life accordingly, but as you probably know – it intervenes sometimes. Deadlines pile up, work has to be done, and I forget what restorative effect a walk has on my thinking.
I forget that it clears my head and allows me to get a fresh perspective.
I tell myself: “Tomorrow, I don’t have time today.”
What does the science say?
The science says that I’m dumb.
“To improve your thinking skills, move.”Chris Medina, “Brain Rules”
Moving can help our brains via several mechanisms:
- Moving means more cardiovascular action, which means more oxygen. Our brains REALLY like oxygen. Brains like oxygen how I like the
georgianmeat pies. Often and in any quantity.
- Moving means neurons firing in the brain. Think of it as a bit of a rhythm. By making the body move, the brain gets into a groove of action, and any cognitive tasks get accomplished easier.
“Your lifetime risk for general dementia is cut in half if you participate in physical activity. Aerobic exercise seems to be the key. With Alzheimer’s, the effect is even greater: Such exercise reduces your odds of getting the disease by more than 60 percent.”John Medina, Brain Rules
Before you embark on spending an exciting 60 minutes on a treadmill, consider the messy outside world. Moving helps but to get the best results, combine it with spending time outdoors.
“People living near more green space reported less mental distress, even after adjusting for income, education, and employment”This is your brain on nature, National Geographic
What could you do to combine the amazing effects of moving with restorative effects of spending time in the green? Guess what! Take a walk in the forest!
Would it help to convince you, if you knew Steve Jobs was pretty insistent on walking meetings?
Artur, but this is basic! DUH!
I clicked on your link expecting some insightful comment, and I don’t want to be lectured about such basic things!
I hear ya. But this advice needs repeating.
Intellectually knowing something is not enough. As Derek Sivers says, “If knowledge was the problem, we would all be billionaires with perfect abs.” We can know something is true and still act totally irrationally.
By all means, I am guilty of this as well. I sometimes discard this advice as “not serious enough” and “this is fine for those wellness people, but I have serious work to do.”
Intellectualizing is not the answer. If you care about doing something, you need to build a habit around it.
The Outside Challenge ™️
Do a test! Check if going outside is really for you.
- Get your ass outside first thing in the morning, for a week.
- Just walk around, notice things. DO NOT STARE AT YOUR PHONE.
- After 30 minutes, go back home.
- Be awesome!
- Crush your day.
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Remote work helps again.
I know not everybody has a nice green space near home.
But… If you worked remotely, what precludes you from living near a forest?
You could even have a view on the trees, getting the benefits of surrounding yourself in nature while you work.
Have you noticed that I post lots of pictures of my laptop opened somewhere in the wilderness?
Because for me, there is no better place to work than surrounded by tress, with wind on my face.
You don’t have to be in exotic place, or wait till the weekend to enjoy time in nature.
You can pick your laptop, hop on a bike (or into a car) and after an hour, you will most likely be in the forest. Yes, I’m pretty certain that they will have LTE coverage.
Now go outside and take a walk!