I need to breathe, I need to clear my head, and I need to get out of the house.
There is a good chance you are saying this to yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A fantastic way to clear your mind, for at least a few moments, is putting on your sneakers and getting outside for a walk. Taking a walk, you are exercising and getting fresh air into the lungs and body. Walking can release endorphins and help clear the mind.
Walking you can also be a meditation to help calm the breath and stress in the body. You first start with the mindset that I am going outside and taking a walk no matter what. Set your intention even while putting on your sneakers thinking of what is worrying you and let it go on the walk. Once you are outside, feel the air on your face and take a deep breath and pause and look up and see the trees, hear the birds, feel the sunshine, or feel the rain. Begin your walk and start slowly and mindfully walking, moving into a walking meditation. If you have ear pods, you may want to listen to some calm music. Just noticing how the body is moving. It is a feeling of tightness or a feeling of being stiff but knowing once the body gets moving and warms up this will all dissolve. Placing one foot in front of the other feeling the ground under you as you breathe in and exhale down into your feet into the ground. Focus on your breath and allow your breath to be slow and be steady, with each footstep. Just tuning into your body and how you are feeling at this moment.
Sounds easy right? As a nation, this is not as easy. We are dealing with COVID-19, and we are under stay at home orders. We are free to walk outside but must wear a facemask. Many choose not to wear a mask and make it stressful for those who do. Walking at times can be difficult, especially for city or village walkers. The sidewalks are only so wide. Become creative with your walk and explore new streets or take a ride into the country and find a nice quiet road (even though that is getting more difficult because everyone has the same idea). Walking for me, I have always found it reflective and liberating, but now I need to maneuver the streets, which sometimes breaks my reflective flow. At times, I do walk slower, and I am more vigilant with my surroundings. There are moments now that I will walk away from people, who choose not to even try to move into a 6ft (1.83 m) distance, on CDC recommendation. It turns into a video game and some people are great about the dance that we do while walking. Exploring walks in your neighborhood, you start to see the familiar faces, who are in this with you and you start to figure out a way to move together, to make space so you can enjoy that quiet walk. Getting outside every day, no matter the weather, even for 15 minutes just to move. When it is cold out, I still get out and layer and layer up. In the summer it is a little more difficult and I walk more in the late evening times. We do learn to adjust to our surroundings. It does not happen quickly, but we are resilient and figure out what works best for you. Some people like to jog, bike, and hike or do yoga and total body fitness classes. A combination of walking and fitness activity is a wonderful way to clear the mind and reduce stress.
Walking and just moving helps boost our immune system by calming the nervous system from the flight or fight. By getting fresh air and sunlight (vitamin D) in your body and getting the blood circulating helps clear the mind and you may have a new outlook by the time you return home, or you may meet someone on your walk and have a conversation about life. Get outdoors you never really know what you may experience and allow yourself to be open to new experiences, you may have a new take on life that you did not think of or recognize.
When you are inside, it is safer to stay in the house, but you will not build your immune system. You may be depleting it with stress and nervousness, which lowers the immune system. Walking helps reduce anxiety and reduce negative thoughts. Walking is a wonderful way to manage what is going on in your current daily life.
“Thoughts come clearly while one walks” — Thomas Mann