Walk Therapy for Personal Growth

And for your health.

Posted Jun 22, 2020

Fotorech, Pixabay, Public Domain
Source: Fotorech, Pixabay, Public Domain

COVID has reduced our recreational activities. One is walking. Writers from Hazlitt to Consumer Reports laud walking for health and the chance to reflect, stimulated by what you see and hear.

Here are some activities you might do while walking that facilitate personal growth and certainly help pass the time if you’re walking merely for exercise.

You could do these things while sedentary, but walking facilitates thinking because the exercise brings extra oxygen to the brain and you’re not distracted by compelling to-dos.

Do carry a memo pad (I use FlipNotes) or your phone with its note-taking or voice-recording app.

Unearth personal goals. As you walk, muse through your typical day from wake to sleep. Are there pain points? What would you like to change? Do more of? Less of?

Now do another pass through your life’s components: career, romantic relationships, platonic relationships, family relationships, recreation, money, and, if you wish, spirituality. Might you want to change something about any of those?

Write your thoughts in your memo pad. Otherwise, even if you have a good memory, the ideas and plans tend to evanesce. Besides, writing them creates a measure of commitment bias—You’re more likely to act on them.

Self-diagnose. As you walk, ask yourself if a psychological factor would inhibit your success in the above or in general? Examples: procrastination, depression, undue anxiety, being overly demanding. What would the Wise One within you do about them: Replace irrational thinking with more rational thought? See a counselor? Just accept that characteristic in yourself?

Tough love. What would your toughest but legitimate critic say about you? How should you respond: Defend yourself? Ignore the criticism because you can’t change it? Change something about your behavior or attitude now? At some point in the future?

Get inspired by nature. Seeing nature’s miracles can provide perspective and inspiration to rise above the quotidian. Instead of just worrying how you'll get through the day, seeing through a tree's symmetrical interstices, the clouds’ artistry, the dandelion poking through the sidewalk crack may help you to do the right thing regarding the dilemma du jour or even be the last straw that makes you commit to changing your life.

Get inspired by people. As you walk, look at people. Perhaps you’ll glance at their eyes, the so-called windows into the soul. Or more mundane, note how people choose to dress. Does that make you want to change something about yourself? To interact more with people? Less? To look differently at the human condition, for example, be more egalitarian or more judgmental?

Get sensory. Many readers of Psychology Today tend to be more cerebral than sensory. Walking affords the option of, without requiring a personality transplant, a foray into the sensory: What are you seeing if you look carefully—from flowers to skyscrapers, those manifestations of people's ability to create? What are you hearing—from birdsong to a passerby's calm or agitated voice? What are you smelling, from that star jasmine to a bus’s exhaust? Does getting in touch with your senses make you want to build more of the sensory into your life? Less? Or perhaps it might somehow trigger an insight.

Pair up? Steve Jobs invited people to walk with him in the woods, especially when facing a difficult issue. You might too.

Space out? Sometimes, walking while emptying your mind can be restorative, even bringing the relaxation needed for personal growth, or merely provide a simple pleasure.

I read this aloud on YouTube.