By Callie Sanders, LSW – Nov. 12, 2019
What do famous authors J.K. Rowling and Ernest Hemingway and geniuses Nikola Tesla and Bill Gates all have in common?
They walk. Walking allows them to think clearly, form ideas, brainstorm with colleagues during meetings, and cure writer’s block, just to name a few.
Science has confirmed that walking ignites creative ability. Stanford University conducted research that found that walking boosts creative output by 60 percent. The same complex brain structures needed to stand upright, coordinate body movements and stay balanced are the same structures that allow us to access our enlightened cognitive abilities.
The left hemisphere of the brain is associated with logical thinking, while the right is associated with creativity. The act of walking and shifting from one foot to the next, which coordinates movements, increases communication between both hemispheres of the brain. As mentioned earlier, writers who experience writer’s block may be particularly fond of walking since creative writing requires both left and right brain functions.
Another creative process that walking helps encourage is called cognitive pause. This process is necessary for creative thinking because it allows us to break free from our preconceptions and empty our minds of old worn-out ideas.
When we “pause and unload,” we give our minds permission to relax and be present. This may help explain why creative genius usually happens at odd times like in the shower or upon waking from a nap.
Walking is naturally meditative. Through light exercise, our muscles release tension which helps distract the mind. The act of walking is rhythmic with each step and swing of the arm. Rhythm lowers brainwave frequency, as this effect is closely related to meditation. This could help explain why people gravitate to and find such pleasure in walking.
I have seen positive outcomes when I take students that I work with at school for walks. The mixture of fresh air and light exercise creates a space for the kids to “pause and unload.”
No matter the need of the student, walking always seems to give them permission to relax and be in the moment. I notice the same in myself, as I am more aware and better able to serve them.
I encourage each of you to give yourselves permission to take a break and go for a walk. You will come back to your tasks with fresh eyes and a better frame of mind. Happy walking!