My Morning Walk

My one daily habit that matters the most…

Over 4 years ago I moved out of London to the countryside. After spending my whole life living in cities (first Sydney, then London) I was craving more space, greenery and a different pace of life.

It’s been for the better. I could write a whole book on the benefits I’ve experienced from changing my living location.

But one of the best things to come out of it is my morning walk.

Everyday after I have breakfast I’ll go for a walk accompanied by my dog, Rox.  Regardless of the weather, we’ll make our way around the fields and forest and typically walk for about an hour.

So why do I do this?

The first reason is that fairly soon after waking, if I go for a walk I get a good dose of natural sunlight. Obviously this varies depending on time of year, but even in the depths of winter I’m getting a whole lot more sunshine than if I was just inside the whole time.

In this podcast I talk about the different forms of light and how they affect the body. I explain how beneficial this morning light can be in supporting circadian rhythm. So not only can the morning sunlight be energising and help to wake me up, at bedtime it’s easier to sleep because of the light I’ve received in the daytime.

The second benefit is that walking is my form of meditation. I’m a huge advocate of apps like Headspace and Calm and am eagerly awaiting Sam Harris’ forthcoming meditation app. But despite encouraging clients to use these, I rarely use them myself.

Because while wandering around in nature, I can use the time to focus on my breathing. To listen to the birds tweeting, the crackling of sticks and fallen branches under my feet or the flow of the stream beside me as I walk. These put me in a relaxed and meditative state.

It’s also a time where my creativity stirs. So many ideas for blog posts or podcast episodes happen while I’m out walking. A kernel of an idea appears and while I walk it can slowly germinate and grow.

(The notes in my phone are an ever growing collection of random thoughts, some of which get pulled together to make something worth sharing. I often feel like Alan Partridge, but there is good that comes from the disparate ideas.)

My walk can also be a time for me to listen to podcasts or audiobooks. I also go for a walk in the afternoon and usually have my afternoon walk be for listening to something, while the morning is my thinking and meditating time.

But if I have a podcast guest coming up and I’m trying to work out what questions I want to ask and what I’d like our conversation to cover, I’ll listen to a podcast in the morning time too.

Another benefit from my morning walk is the implied message it sends. Spending an hour going for a walk every morning could easily feel like a luxury or I could feel guilty that I should be doing more work.

So by doing this everyday I’m sending myself the message that I’m worth taking care of. That I can (and should be) spending my time on things that I enjoy and make me feel good.

I regularly recommend that clients get a massage or some form of bodywork. There is the obvious reason that this kind of treatment helps to alleviate pain and tension or helps with alignment.

But there is the less obvious reason, in that it sends the message to them that they are worth looking after. Taking yourself for this kind of a treatment shows a level of self care that goes beyond the physical improvements and taps into beliefs around worthiness.

Another benefit from my morning walk comes from my working buddy, Rox. She’s a chocolate Labrador who just loves life. For quite some time now I’ve actually wanted to write a piece entitled “life lessons I’ve learned from having a dog”.

On a daily basis I get to see how much she loves to run around and just be in the moment, which is a good reminder I need on some days more than others.

And this leads onto the final reason, which are the benefits walking creates in my mood. Life isn’t always easy. There are days where I feel overwhelmed. There are weeks where every morning I’m rolling out of bed at 5am to immediately start work.

But regardless of what’s going on and how I feel when I first start walking, things are always better by the time I finish up. Better mood, better energy, better grasp on reality. And by “better” I don’t mean everything is perfect, but at the very least the walk has helped to shift the needle in the right direction.

In Japan there’s been research done on “forest bathing”. Despite the mental image it created in my mind of people wearing swimwear while in the forest, the term simply means walking in the forest.

The studies showed that spending time in nature decreased stress hormones, improved concentration and helped with blood sugar regulation (among others).

And given where I live, I’m very fortunate to get to experience this every day.

But the important reason for me sharing this with you isn’t to gloat or to even tell you that you should regularly be walking. It’s really my way of encouraging you to find something that creates a tangible difference in your life and suggesting you do it regularly.

For me it is walking, but for you it could be something completely different. But we need to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others, so what is the one thing you can be doing on a regular basis that improves your health, life or daily existence?



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Chris Sandel is the founder of www.seven-health.com. He is a nutritionist, working with clients on a one-on-one basis, as well as creating online trainings and products about health and nutrition. He is the author of The Health Trap: Why "Healthy" Eating Isn't Always Healthy which is available on Amazon UK and Amazon USA.

Chris has three free emails series. One is on how to quit dieting. One is on simple tests you can do at home. And the other is his take on the world's healthiest foods.

Comments

  1. david ulmer says:

    wow this came at a great time! i just got a gym membership mainly cause it has a Olympic sized pool to swim laps and when i was young i loved swimming. i made it a habit to go almost everyday even if just 20 mins and it benefits me on so many levels! 1. my body feels more relaxed through the whole day 2. i sleep much more better at night 3. i honestly feel like it gives me a little more confidence, i thought that might sound weird but it really dose. its funny i wanted to start swimming to build a bit of muscle and enjoy the water but im finding even bigger benefits from it everyday.

  2. Great article Chris – right on the money. I live by three small lakes and a canal system and walk most days – it’s made a huge difference to my health on every level! I just wish I had a chocolate lab too – they’re my joint favourites with Westies ?

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