You’re reading to make a change, but where do you even start…? Gratitude journals? Side Planks? Meditation? Here’s the simplest thing you can start doing today for your mental & physical well-being.
Not fast. Not far. Not fancy.
Trying to reconnect with your body? Manage overwhelming emotions? Lose weight? Increase your vitality? Heal your low back pain? Make a tough decision? Reconnect with a friend?
Just walk. Every day.
When building a habit, it’s easier to do something every day than most days. If you plan to do it “most days,” then you have to decide if you will or will not do it today, and it’s easy to put off. Don’t think about whether you should do it or not. Just put your jacket on. Don’t rationalize why it is or isn’t a good time. Just walk out the door.
To be clear, “not far,” is both relative and flexible. Your current abilities may limit extended walking. Just do what’s possible, and do it daily. If regular movement is new for you, aim for 5-10 minutes per day. Five minutes of walking is always better than zero.
Make time daily to prioritize your own energy and reconnect to the natural world.
Here’s why it works:
- Our bodies are designed to move. Regular walking is one of the best things you can do to prevent and manage chronic pain (especially low back pain and joint pain).
- Walking removes us from our habitual surroundings, making it easier for us to break habitual thought patterns.
- Emotional regulation and processing is often easier when our body is in motion.
- Walking promotes the release of endorphins that stimulate decrease stress levels and improve our mood.
- Connecting to the natural world has deeply therapeutic effects: decreases in blood pressure, improvements in problem solving and creative thinking, & increased emotional regulation, to name just a few.
Common (mental) roadblocks and how to overcome them:
“I’m too busy; I have no free time; it’s impossible to add this daily.”
- Taking time for yourself can be a big challenge, especially if we’re accustomed to orienting our time and energy around others. I invite you to assess where you might reclaim a few minutes for yourself. Notice if your belief system codes this as selfish or unnecessary. We must meet our own needs before we can give to others. Consider where and with whom you may need to set a new boundary to protect your time.
- Be honest with yourself about how you spend your time, and what you choose to prioritize.
“I’m already so tired all the time, I don’t have the energy for this.”
- I feel this. Deeply. I’ve been there.
- Short walks will increase your energy and blood flow, relieving feelings of fatigue and lethargy. Remind yourself of how your last short walk felt.
- Some days we walk and then we nap. That’s ok, too.
“I know I should, I just cant get myself out the door.”
- Do not decide if you will go for the walk. Plan when you will go. Set an alarm on your phone, and immediately stop when you’re doing when it goes off. Grab your keys, head out the door. Don’t decide if you should. Don’t bring anything. Just start today.
- When we procrastinate, we often have an unconscious belief that we will feel better if we do not act. e.g.: “Sitting on the couch will feel better than walking.”, “Putting this off until tomorrow will make me feel better today.” Often these judgments are contrary to our own rational knowledge. Take a moment to notice what stories come up for you.
“That won’t really make a difference.”
- There’s so many flashy programs and expensive devices available for purchase these days that it’s easy to dismiss what is simple as ineffective. Functional solutions don’t need to be expensive to be valuable. Discover for yourself through experience. Walk daily for 10 days then decide for yourself.
Times in the day to add short walk:
- When arriving at the grocery store. Park you car, walk around the block once, go into the store and get on with your day.
- When leaving or arriving home for the day. Often you are already appropriately dressed for the weather.
- When you can’t stand another minute of staring into your computer screen. Get up, grab your headphones, and walk out the door. Head back after a couple songs.
- When with friends/ family/ colleagues. Physical activity feels easier and passes more quickly when you have company. Grab that coffee and walk through the park together instead of sitting inside.
However you fit it in, make the time to move your body a few minutes every day.
Not fast. Not far. Not fancy.