Ever been stuck for a solution to a problem or just unable to come up with new ideas? Then stepped away, gone for a walk and come back to the said problem or blank page feeling refreshed and most importantly inspired with a creative solution to hand? You’ve just discovered the wonderful creative benefits of walking.
It’s official. Walking boosts creativity. So if you’re looking for ways to become more creative, this is your simple and healthy solution.
Walking My Way to Inspiration
20 years ago I was what is now known as a ‘gym bunny’. Up at 6am, in the gym at 6.30, 5 days a week. On and off for years. Jogging, pushing, pulling, lunging, huffing and puffing. The anxiety I would feel when I didn’t exercise was immense. I’ll admit my exercise regime bordered on the obsessive.
In the past year there’s been a shift. I suffered a bought of coughs and colds and going to the gym was the last activity on my mind. However, I’ve always had a mental and physical need to get out of the house and move my body. Therefore instead of the gym, I started going for walks, after the kids had gone to school and before going to work.
I’ve walked through a year of seasons now.
Enjoying morning light. Being soaked through in spring showers. Wind-blown in Autumn storms. Sun-burnt in the summer sun.
During this time, I’ve noticed a shift in my mind. Ideas and inspiration flow through me. In fact I can’t stop them. I’ll often return home and the first thing I’ll do is grab my notebook or sketchbook with a new idea or solution to a creative problem. I’ve discovered the many creative benefits of walking.
Intrigued, I’ve started to do a little reading and found out there is scientific reasons to the wonderful creative benefits of walking.
The Research Behind the Creative Benefits of Walking.
- The act of walking, not just the environment, brings creative benefits and improves long-term cognitive function.
- Walking on a treadmill or in the park, produced twice as many responses in the test participants, compared to sitting down.
- Participants creative juices continued to flow after the walk, when they returned to sit at their desks to work.
Why does walking bring creative benefits?
We know that walking is good for our health. Our blood pumps faster, more blood and oxygen circulates around our body, into our organs and brain, It changes the chemistry of our brains.
A long-term walking habit promotes connections between brain cells and delays the withering of brain tissue that comes with age. My husbands 86 year old Grandmother is confirmation of this. She is still as bright as a button and continues to walk miles every day.
When we walk, our body syncs with our mind. Our mental state is affected by the pace that we walk. When we are anxious we tend to walk faster. When we are unmotivated, feeling low, we’ll walk slower. There’s a loop between the rhythm of our bodies and our mental state.
Want to calm down? Walk Slower. Want to feel energised? Walk faster.
Importantly, and this is where the magic happens because our body and mind are in sync, there is no conscious effort, so our mind is free to wander. Known as the ‘Deliberation Without Attention Effect’. This state of mind leads to innovation and insight.
Significantly, this isn’t something we can achieve when jogging or cycling for example because our mind focuses on the exertion of the activity instead.
The Creative Connection Between Walking & Your Environment
Although the creative benefits of walking can be found whether you’re walking on a treadmill or in the park, you can take the creative benefits of walking further. Where we walk matters:
- Walking in green or natural spaces, in the park, along the beach, in the woods or in open fields, allows the mind to drift, gently.
- Walking in cities and towns may be more of an assault on your senses but they can also surprise and delight too.
Depending on what I need creatively, I’ll choose to walk in the park to allow my mind to wander without intention. Great for problem-solving or to come up with new ideas. Some of the flowers and foliage I find on my walks will end up being used in my artwork or for my Instagram compositions.
Alternatively, I’ll walk through the busy North Laine of Brighton to be inspired by the creativity and characters so abundant in our city. I find a city walk is perfect for being inspired in unusual ways.
Virginia Woolf expresses the differences beautifully. She relished the creativity of London’s streets as:
“being on the highest crest of the biggest wave, right in the centre and swim of things”
Yet, when she walked on Sussex’s South Downs, she had:
“space to spread my mind out.”
You too can join the great minds of creativity, from Virginia Woolf and Hemingway to Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg (who is famous for his walking meetings) and discover the wonderful creative benefits of walking, plus the magic of your mind in the process.
Do I still go to the gym? Nope. It was simple. Choose:
- exercise that made me anxious and bored = gym.
- Or exercise that brought inspiration and delight = walking.
It was of course number 2. I am also financially so much better off!
If you do take a wander or stroll I’d love for you to simply observe and delight in what you see around you. I’d love you share some of your finds and tag my new Instagram hashtag #simplebeautyseeker
Have an inspired day
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