When you feel low, it’s often the time you are least apt to do things that make you feel good. But the trick is to have a few things that you know uplift you, more than a few if you can, and do them! For me, one of the strongest and quickest turnarounds of a low-day comes from a walk, preferably with my dog. But it worked almost as well even before I had him, now I just get the added joy of feeling his joy on our walks!
So, first to convince you to make walking a go-to, let’s think about all the benefits. You have probably heard a lot of these but a reminder never hurts!
Physical Benefits of Walking
When you start walking, your body begins to unwind. Fluids begin circulating in your lymph system and blood begins pumping through your blood vessels. The undulating movement of walking starts to unwind the creakiness in your bones and tightness in muscles and tendons. Your breathing becomes deeper and this increased oxygen feeds all parts of your body, including your brain.
If your lower back is tight, the movement of walking includes not only your legs but your hips, all connecting up to your waist and lower back. You engage your core when you walk and a strong core means a strong stomach, which is important for a healthy lower back.
The two counterbalance one another. You can focus on your stomach and abs while you walk to intentionally use these muscles more specifically. Next time you go for a walk, go ahead and lift your toes in your shoes and let each step emanate from your stomach muscles. Let your abs lift your right foot forward and then your left. You can really feel the difference when you do this and it’s a great feeling!
Spiritual Benefits of Walking
Walking also uplifts your spirit. After a few minutes, even if you began your walk feeling down or low-energy, you will begin looking around yourself and becoming present. You will see the blue sky or the green trees, or if it’s fall you will hear the crunch of those same leaves under your feet. If you have been working a lot or taking care of your children all day and feel a little frazzled, you will notice that your mind begins to quiet. You will feel silence and calm begin to descend over you because your racing mind has slowed down. It’s truly important to let yourself get outside of yourself. By this I mean to let go of all the things you define as you: your job, friends, life, things, and house. On your walk it’s just you and nature.
This is a great place to practice feeling awe. Let yourself feel awe at the universe, at nature, at the wonder of your amazing body that works so perfectly that you can go on this walk. While on your walk, think about all the things happening in your body that makes this walk possible! It’s magical really, this mechanism that is you!
Things NOT to Do on Your Walk
Don’t think about the work you are taking a break from. Use this time wisely and let not just your body, but your mind, unwind. Instead look at the green grass around you, listen to the birds and the humming of bugs. If you have a dog, bask in his or her enjoyment of this walk. Don’t think about the people that make you the most mad. This is not a good use of your time. After your nourishing walk you probably will feel more relaxed and more gentle in your attitude toward them, and yourself. Don’t walk in a place that is loud or somewhere you will see people or things that you do not enjoy. Make sure to set yourself up for success, so choose walking spots that inspire you!
The Real Trick? Just Do It!
My friends used to call me “The Nike Girl” because my motto was always, “Just do it”. This attitude has really helped me, especially when it comes to walking. And I urge you to do the same. When it comes to walking or yoga, I almost always say yes in the moment. I just do it. I go for it: even if I feel badly, or don’t want to do what it takes to get to that class. know that I must do it. How do I know? I know from the so many times when it completely changed my day, soothed my weary thoughts and helped me become my best/better self.
So think to yourself, even if I don’t want to go do this right now, I know it will make me feel so much better. I know my body and my spirit want, need and deserve this. And then just head out the door. In a few minutes, you will start to feel amazing! If you have a hard time motivating yourself, make a plan to walk with a friend. Or go to a yoga class at a studio or your gym if it’s too difficult for you to relax in your home. Do whatever it takes to get that time that makes you nourished and fulfilled.