Walking and writing: the perfect recipe to calm the soul

Disclaimer: this could be a quite philosophical article, so, if you’re not in the mood for some abstract thoughts, skip it. But if you’re looking for a way to address anxiety and stress, keep on reading. I’ll share with you two totally free and simple strategies I use myself whenever I feel bad for some reasons.

Have you ever noticed that wonderful feeling of when you’re just walking, with your music on, pumping into your earphones, nothing on your head really, but then, suddenly, you stop paying attention to the lyrics of the song, and, in synchrony with your feet, your thoughts start running around, and then jump and fly!

Research has shown that walking relieves anxiety and improves wellbeing, so, especially in those moments you feel particularly stressed or under pressure, taking a break from what you are doing (or you’re struggling doing) and go out for a walk is the best solution. I can assure you that it works, as I have done it myself in multiple occasions.

Somewhere around Pomerol, France

Simply walking, even better if in nature or at least in a quiet and not crowded area, without too much traffic, cleans your mind of unnecessary worries, makes you stronger and relaxes your soul.  Maybe it’s because it puts things into perspective. No matter how stressed you are, (how badly a deadline is approaching or how harsh that fight with a dear one was). Now you are just a human being enjoying a simple and automatic activity and it feels simply right.

Walking creates room in your mind for new and insightful thoughts, as if the mind started working in synergy with the body: faster and more actively.

If you are confused, troubled, stressed or nervous or maybe just a bit lost, going for a walk, just with yourself and your thoughts, is something I’d definitely recommend.

Parc du Cinquantenaire, Bruxelles

Listen to some music if you wish, or just enjoy the silent.

Stop as often as you like. Don’t walk too fast, look around, look into the eyes of the people you cross: probably they have something on their mind too. You are not alone, but now you’re taking some time for yourself: to unwind, to breath, to try and understand what’s happening in your life.

Many times, our life is so hectic and fast-paced that we forget to pay attention to how we feel or what we really want. Sometimes we get lost half way realizing that we don’t know where we are directed anymore in our lives.  And it’s ok, it happens to the best of us.

It’s ok to panic, to cry or to just feel awful. But what is not ok is to pretend that everything is fine and carrying on like we were doing. The gut feelings we get about a person, a situation or a choice are a wake-up call that we should take some time and reconsider our decisions.

So walking is a great way to claim that deserved moment of peace to stop and think.

Most likely, at a certain point, our mind will start running wild, bombarded by a million thoughts, memories and feelings. Maybe you’ll feel so overwhelmed by those emotions that you’ll feel like crying.

And that’s the perfect moment to stop, wherever you are, find a spot to sit down and start writing. Remember: It’s something for yourself and no-one else. There are no rules, no punctuation, no right or wrong. Just write what’s on your mind, without thinking too much: reflections, images, memories, lyrics of a song you find meaningful, questions you cannot find an answer to. You’ll see that your hand will start to move faster, almost as if an invisible force travels from your heart to your hand to the paper.

Write as long as you want, as long as you can, until you feel exhausted, completely squeezed of all your thoughts.

Somewhere between Florence and Fiesole

Then, the magic should happen. Your mind should feel less crowded, your heart should feel lighter. You’ll see the sun going down and you’ll feel like it’s time to head back home.

Writing has this power to clarify the confusion that blurs our mind, as if putting things on paper is a way to rationalize it. Maybe, it’s just because, by separating the problems and making us deal with them one by one, it helps us to put them into perspective.

Writing is an incredible self-discovery tool, because it forces us to make sense of our story from an outer perspective, as if we could see ourselves from the outside.

It may not work for everyone, but I promise it works for me and it’s helped me in many occasions. So I hope it can work for you too.

Bois de la Cambre, Bruxelles

Also, as the Latin saying goes “Verba volant, scripta manent” (words fly away, but written words remain), what you write can be kept and treasured. It’s like keeping a diary of how your mind works: at anytime you can go and read what you wrote months or years ago and you’ll remember of how you felt and what was going on in your life and in your mind at that precise moment. And in this way, you can realize that it’s not the first time you’ve felt sad or down: it’s already happened and, even if in that moment you thought to be helpless and miserable, look at you now: you’ve gone through all that, and you are stronger.

So this is not the first nor the last time you’ve felt or will feel like that. That’s how life goes. But having awareness of this gives you strength and peace of mind.

As the inscription on the temple of Apollo in Delphi said, “Know thyself”, I think that knowing ourselves implies knowing our strengths and weaknesses but also our psychological patterns (how we react to certain situations).

Knowing this helps us to rationalize what happens to us and, to some extent, to have control over it and how we react to it.

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