Walking was described as the ‘best medicine’ by the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates.
And modern medicine agrees – the NHS suggests five steps for mental wellbeing:
- Connect with other people
- Be physically active
- Learn new skills
- Give to others
- Pay attention to the present moment (mindfulness)
Walking more regularly – whether that’s through green spaces or just around your local neighbourhood could easily give you all five. At Grow Social Capital, we think walking is one of the best ways to boost your mindfulness, creativity, well-being, social capital and purposefulness.
A walk or any journey put you in a bigger context, a bigger landscape. A walk connects you with your world, provides a greater sense of being. Walking enables you to connect with yourself, a time free from the usual distractions of phones, computers or other people to let your mind roam free and be more aware of your own thoughts.
And any walk or journey provides rich experiences of new stimuli and the unexpected crossing your path. We call this ‘walkspiration’:
Walk to inspire creative thinking
Any journey can create time and space to set your mind free to think. It helps if you define your challenge as a question. Choose one or more role models and imagine how they would help you answer the question. Use anything you see or experience on your journey to prompt new thoughts or get you to re-examine or reframe your question.Capture any ideas or thoughts. Revisit your question. Keep listening, connecting and doing.
Walk to boost your bandwidth
Your headspace – your capacity to take on board new ideas, new thinking and saying ‘yes’ to new opportunities – is your bandwidth. Like a muscle you can grow its capacity through exercise. A walk, or any journey, gets you out of your settled environment. There is potential to encounter nature or the achievements of others. Changing your physiology creates new energy and new mindsets. Just looking up rather than down literally changes your worldview.
Walk to stretch your curiosity
Being a ‘flaneur’ is to wander without any purpose, with no practical goals or plan in mind, avoiding hurrying or buying things. It enriches your soul and sense of well-being by observing and listening – in the fullest sense – to your wider world. You encourage your listening to be more receptive and open to the emerging qualities within your environment. The more you can develop your sense of being ‘present’, the more you spot the unusual or the patterns that exist around you.
Walk to inspire new collaborations
Doing things with other people – as well as being more fun, builds your sense of cohesion and togetherness. A great exercise is to walk in pairs, stay silent and try to keep in step with each other. At the end of the walk share any unusual or different sounds you observed. This helps build empathy. It is not easy keeping in step with another. Reflecting on the exercise can make you realise how you need to work harder to be more aligned with others and work in partnership and collaboration.
Walk to build social capital
You were told as a child ‘Don’t talk to strangers’. Yet talking to strangers can make you happier. Walking in your community and just saying ‘Hello’, even to strangers, can strengthen your bonds and associations, making you feel more rooted, part of a bigger whole. By saying ‘Hello’ you also make social capital contagious – inspiring others to feel more confident to say hello to strangers, creating a stronger social norm for civility and communal conviviality.
Our Walkspiration Bingo has some more ideas for walkspiration – ways you can use walking to connect to people, the environment, your community and your own wellbeing.
Of course, please stay safe, don’t put yourself in risky situations and adhere to current social distancing and covid-security measures.