Tag Archives: walking and creativity

Tips for Adulthood: Five Reasons to Keep Walking

walking autumn
Image: Photo by Sébastien Goldberg on Unsplash

On occasional Wednesdays, I offer tips for adulthood.

As we in the UK enter our second lockdown, I am revisiting some of the coping strategies I developed during the first lockdown. In addition to cooking more and doing micro workouts, I’ve returned to my daily walks with a vengeance.

Even if you’re not currently in lockdown, here are 5 reasons to keep walking as you age:

1.Walking spurs creativity. Research suggests a link between walking and creativity (There’s even a brainstorming technique called brainwalking. Can’t wait to try it!) But walking also teaches you how to be an observant student of other people. Writer and long-time public radio host Garrison Keillor once wrote that “A long walk also brings you into contact with the world…It isn’t about you and your feelings, so much as about what people wear and how they talk. The superficial is never to be overlooked.” Simply put, when you go outside you notice things. And, as the late, great Nora Ephron put it, “Everything is copy.”

2. Walking keeps your brain sharp. Walking also increases concentration and energy levels. One study suggested that walking three times a week over six months led to improved reaction times for those suffering from vascular dementia. Walking is also thought to have a positive effect on memory and problem-solving skills for children under 18.

3.Walking is good for your mental health. New research in the journal Emotion suggests that taking “awe walks” – i.e. walks that involve both physical vastness and novelty – can significantly boost positive emotions, especially among older adults. Participants in this study reported feeling more socially connected, more grateful, more compassionate, and more joyful. And this boost in “pro-social emotions” carried through into everyday life.

4. Walking lets you discover your neighborhood. My New Year’s Resolution to “walk without purpose” has borne fruit. During the first lockdown, I took long walks around parts of my neighborhood I’d never visited before. I discovered streets with names like “Malcolm X Way” and “Pablo Neruda Close.” I saw hand-made tributes to the British National Health Service (NHS) in people’s windows. I even found a new coffee joint and developed an adult crush on the 27 year old Russian-Canadian barista.

5. Walking gives you time for podcasts. As someone who came to podcasts belatedly, walking has been my friend. Because I don’t own a car – and because I’m not currently commuting – I now have more time than ever before to sample a range of podcasts. This is great for my newsletter – (I recommend one podcast a month) – and it’s great for me. I can stay across everything from US politics to new forms of storytelling to helpful writing tips. It’s been a huge boon to my life.

How about you? Do you walk more now? What does walking do for you?

Tips for Adulthood: How to Generate Ideas

creativity ideas

creativity ideasOn occasional Wednesdays, I offer tips for adulthood. But as Friday is the new Wednesday under lockdown, I’m posting some tips today.

It’s been awhile since I posted on creativity. But it’s one of those things that I think about all the time. I’m fascinated by how creative people relate to their work, how they structure their days, and how they access their creative “space.”

Because I offer workshops on creativity and writing, I’ve been trying to pay more attention to how and when I come up with ideas, whether for blog posts, short stories, or reported pieces. Like many people, a lot of my best ideas emerge when I’m doing something *other than* sitting at the computer typing.

So today, I’m sharing some techniques for coming up with ideas, with the hope that these may prove useful to others. While I focus on writing ideas, I’m sure these strategies are pertinent to other fields:

a. Exercise.  When I’m confused about an idea, not sure how to spin it or just wondering if there’s even a “there there,” it’s amazing how often exercise solves that problem. In the old days, I’d go for a run. Now (at least once quarantine lifts!), I go for a swim. I may not set off on my workout intending to think about a certain issue. But if there’s something kicking around the back of my mind, I often find that the combination of forward motion, exertion and fresh air allow everything to fall in place. A friend of mine who’s a novelist does the same thing with bike rides. He writes in the morning and takes long bike rides in the afternoon. By the next morning, he tells me, he’s got loads of fresh material. The trick is to rush inside right after the workout and jot down your ideas.

b. Take a Thinking Shower.  During my first few years in graduate school, we were required to take a series of exams in order to qualify in our chosen field of study. These were called “field exams” and in my department, at least, they consisted of a series of essays which you researched and wrote over the course of a weekend. Needless to say, none of us got much sleep during those weekends. But I did have one friend who always seemed to be in the shower when I’d phone up to see how she was getting on. “The shower?” I’d ask, wondering who could possibly bathe regularly when they had so little time to complete an exam. “It’s a thinking shower,” she’d explain. She found that burst of hot water on her face  enabled her to outline her essays. So I tried it. So should you. Scientists even have a name for the link between water and creativity: blue mind.

c. Figure out what’s distinctive about your perspective. This is a technique I’ve used quite a bit since moving overseas. I find that so much of what I think about various issues – whether it’s health care reform, therapy, or getting a driver’s license – has changed dramatically simply by virtue of living somewhere else. But you don’t need to change place to draw on this different viewpoint. Just this morning I was thinking about the current turmoil engulfing the United States over race relations. I realised that I was thinking about the emerging divides in and around the Republican party over using the military to quell protests through what I know as a political scientist, rather than as a citizen. And having that different perspective was informative and useful.

d. Reflect on the most striking thing someone has said to you in the last week.  When I’m trying to come up with ideas for blog posts, I sometimes think about the most unusual thing someone’s said to me in the past week. Often, that person is one of my children. “Why is God so famous?” my daughter once asked me when she was six. A friend of mine recently observed that people have begun engaging in “opposite behaviour” during lockdown – i.e., those who normally hate cooking have taken to Instagram to share their culinary triumphs, while avowed introverts are flocking to Zoom for virtual drinks. A stranger confessed that he selects which films to watch based solely on the appeal of the poster. (Whaaaa???) Whenever this happens, I grab my pen and scribble these comments down.

5. Go outside for a walk.  Here, the focus is less on exercise – though there is research supporting a link between walking and creativity – than it is about being an observant student of other people. Writer and long-time public radio host Garrison Keillor once wrote that “A long walk also brings you into contact with the world, which is basic journalism, which most writing is. It isn’t about you and your feelings, so much as about what people wear and how they talk. The superficial is never to be overlooked.” Simply put, when you go outside you notice things. I’ve been taking long walks around parts of my neighborhood I’ve never visited before. The other day, I discovered a street called “Harriet Tubman Way.” It happened to be one of the first days of the racial equality protests in America. I paused to stare at the sign for a moment. It resonated differently than it might have a month earlier. And that’s what it’s all about.

How do you generate new ideas? Share in the comments section.

Image: Idea Creativity Innovation via Pixabay