Taking the Time to Walk Outside

Michelle Chahine Evening Walks With MinjayThis is what I got to see because of Minjay.

I know for a fact, with 100% certainty, that 2 Mondays ago when I took this picture, I would have stayed indoors if it weren’t for Minjay. When you get home at the end of several hours at work, most likely at a desk inside an office space, you often want to do nothing but sit on the couch. Even after you’ve been sitting all day.

I know this, because I was like that, and I think I still would be if I didn’t have to take Minjay for his evening walk. Every. Single. Day. He needs it, and he’s taught me that so do I.

This speaks to three essential things to work-life balance: moving (taking care of your body), nature and Minjay.

Having a pet, especially a happy, energetic dog, has forced me to take at least 2 long walks every day, at least 30 minutes each. The evening walk often coincides with sunset, depending on the time of the year. It really is a magic hour in the park, as you can see in the picture above. I stopped in my tracks once we turned a corner and I saw the stunning view above with the soft clouds decorating the colored sky. My energy shifted instantly. I was like a new person, no longer tired or weary. I couldn’t help but think of the contrast of the “rest” I would have gotten sitting on the couch at home, probably watching TV, which would have resulted in more of the same, dull energy.

Walking, of course, isn’t just about the physical benefits of exercising your body after likely sitting most of the day. On evening walks, and morning ones too, I also end up taking care of my mind, surrounded by trees, green and natural beauty. Author Richard Louv even coined the term “nature-deficit disorder” to describe the effect of urban dwelling, spending much of our time indoors and the rise of electronic media that fills up so much of our day (see my previous post about going “screen-free”). This is especially worrisome when it comes to children. There seems to be increasing attention being given to the issue. For example, I was happy to see recently a “Discover The Forest” billboard in a prime spot on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Louv writes about how connecting with nature boosts creativity and well-being in all areas of our life. The positive effects of taking time to walk in nature aren’t abstract, he explains in this Q&A with National Geographic:

If you look at a new body of research on depression, ADD, physical health, child obesity, and the epidemic of inactivity, nature is a good antidote to all of that. I didn’t coin it, but I like the phrase “sitting is the new smoking,” because new evidence shows that sitting long hours every day can have serious health risks similar to those caused by smoking.

Researchers at the University of Illinois are investigating whether time in the woods could be used to supplement treatment of ADD. A study at the University of Kansas found that young people who backpacked for three days showed higher creativity and cognitive abilities. People in hospitals who can see a natural landscape have been shown to get better faster.

As an antidote, we need to figure out ways to increase nature time even as technology increases. It has to be a conscious decision.

Read the full Q&A here.



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