Discover more from FIELD NOTES
The hidden powers of walking 🚶
And a work hack I've recently discovered. 🙌
Let’s talk about the good-old mind-body connection.
A few weeks back, I had an interview with CBC The Homestretch to talk about my book. I was quite nervous prior to the phone call (my heart was racing!) and discovered part-way through the interview that I was pacing the house. I’ve known this about myself — that I tend to stand up when I’m talking on the phone and usually wander over to a window. But this time it was like some other force had taken over my body, sending me pacing across the living room, to the front door, through the kitchen, and back again, all while riddling off answers to questions I had no time to prepare for in advance. Pacing, I noticed, helped to keep me in the flow, and keep me attentive while I was in the hot seat.
I was curious about what was happening, so I posted about it on Twitter.
Within a few minutes, a few others had responded, some with Dr. or Ph.D. next to their names. The consensus? The act of moving was a form of regulation for my nervous system. The brain and body apparently love consistency, predictability and rhythm. “It tells our nervous system we are safe,” said one clinical neuropsychologist.
This made total sense to me. The human body hasn’t evolved much since we faced much more acute, daily threats — such as being chased by a large predator. We are hard-wired with a stress response that at times isn’t equal to the actual problems we face (that radio interviewer wasn’t about to reach through the phone and shred me limb from limb). So, hacking that system through regulatory movement can calm the brain and bring us into a state of flow.
Now, I haven’t done a deep dive into all the neuroscience just yet. I’m sure it’s all very cool. But, having felt that flow in my body and now also understanding what was transpiring, I decided to see if it could help me prepare for an upcoming presentation that was causing me stress.
You see, I had the chance to present my book at a festival I have long aspired to speak at, and I wanted to do a great job.
I wrote and rewrote the presentation several times. But it wasn’t feeling right. Then, one morning I decided to go for a walk to see if I could take advantage of that flow state. I would use the Voice Memos app, and my headphones, so that I could walk and talk through my presentation.
I am fortunate to live in a town where I can walk for an hour or even two without seeing many people, as I was talking out loud the entire time. As I walked through the forest, past the Bow River, and through marshland, I spoke one sentence at a time, sometimes correcting myself, and allowing long pauses before proceeding. By the time I got home, I had been gone for two hours and had recorded a rough presentation from start to finish. I had unlocked something through the process that brought out a more cohesive and authentic presentation that I was happy from then on to refine and practice, instead of rewrite.
(For the writers out there, I used Otter.ai to transcribe my interview. SO EASY.)
It was a remarkable experience. It’s not that I haven’t “used” walking before, but I don’t know if I’ve ever been so intentional about it, in this context. The whole experience was like a win-win-win-win-win.
It felt good to move my body and get some exercise.
I got a good dose of Vitamin D (can’t get enough of that).
I came home having moved an important project forward.
I was staring at nature rather than a screen.
I saw rabbit and coyote tracks in the light dusting of snow around me!
With this walk-and-“work” hack, I think I’m on to something new. Sometimes it’s tempting to shackle myself to the desk and will myself into productivity. I know deep down this is an illusion, and I’ve suffered the consequences many times. Having the ability to move a project forward while I’m moving is a beautiful thing, especially at this very busy point in my life. I get tired of staring at the screen, so typing by first dictating and then transcribing is a tool I intend to use more going forward.
Speaking more generally, I’ve had a long-term relationship with walking, but more recently it’s fallen by the wayside (blame the -25º Celsius we’ve had here). Over the years, it’s been a lifeline for me, especially post-partum and through the pandemic. I’d like to start incorporating it into my life again. It doesn’t take much of a Google search to see it’s one of the easiest ways we can maintain our overall health. It has tremendous health benefits. It’s free. A daily walk, even a short one, will no doubt help me feel more balance in life and more productive when I sit back down at the desk.
I think I just needed an extra nudge to motivate me to keep things simple and re-introduce walking into my life. So, there you have it: What’s your relationship with walking? Is it something you can do more of, too?
And let me know if any of you try out this walk-and-work hack. 🙌
As an able-bodied person, I recognize that walking isn’t something to take for granted. I am so grateful to have this option. I’ve learned through my Twitter chat that other rhythmic activities, such as knitting and drumming, can have a similar effect on our flow state. I hope you all enjoy experimenting!
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What’s caught my attention lately… ✨
Full Disclosure: Meghan J. Ward on Marriage, Motherhood and Weighing the Truth in Memoir. This piece, which I recently wrote for LitHub, is one of my favourites to date.
On Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown, Mayim recently interviewed Jewel in (what was for me) an unforgettable episode: Turn Your Life Around One Thought at a Time.
Speaking of the benefits of walking in nature, The Open-Air Life by Linda Åkeson McGurk offers a refreshing take on our relationship with the outdoors, inspired by the Nordic art of friluftsliv.
Check these out too… 🙌
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The Wonders That I Find - My children’s book! 🌿
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