The Best Thing You Can Do For Yourself Right Now

Take a walk to enhance your thinking and improve your health

Cindy Shapiro

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Photo by Spencer Goggin on Unsplash

The moment I step outside and take my first breath, I feel lighter. Almost instantly, as I begin to stride, my mood improves. In the long morning shade of the cottonwoods, I begin to ruminate, thoughts languorously drifting into my mind, spilling onto the grass and slipping away.

It is on my morning walk that I get my best thinking done.

It comes as no surprise that a study from the National Institute of Health shows that getting outside for such a simple act as to take a walk, whether for 10 minutes or for 30, can jog thinking, and increase not only the amount of thinking, but the depth of thought and understanding.

Imagine if we each took a few more minutes per day to strut about our environs — imagine what we could do with the thoughts we’d conjure.

Henry David Thoreau heralded the art of strolling in his aptly-named essay, “Walking.” In it, he describes his rambles through woods and fields, heading to nowhere in particular for hours on end, seemingly with the goal of getting lost. Pity that we all can’t be like Thoreau, with ample time to roam and to think. Imagine the thinking we could get done if we did.

And yet much of our time throughout the day is spent sitting. Thoreau comments on this, as well. He describes people at their workplaces sitting morosely, the hours on their life clocks ever-shortening. He likens it to suicide.

And here we are, more than 150 years later, many of us suffering the same fate as those wretched workers he described huddled upon their stools.

A few years ago, when I was an English teacher, I designed a unit on Transcendentalism during which we studied Thoreau’s work in tandem with the powerful inspiration and effects of nature. I always saved it for the late spring, when the lawns were green again and the trees were rife with blossoms. The centerpiece of that unit was a writing exercise, largely constructed while outside. Students spent time throughout the class period wandering in the expansive front lawn of our school, gathering sensory information from their rambles: examining trees, wondering about birdsongs, and delighting at…

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Cindy Shapiro

Cindy Shapiro is long-time teacher living in Colorado. As a writer, she aims to elevate teachers’ voices and provide insight on issues in education.