Why Walking Is One of the Best Things You Can Do For Your Spiritual Health
While taking a long walk often comes up in discussions about maintaining your mental health, I also believe it is important for your spiritual health as well. I believe that establishing a practice of regular (if not daily) 30-minute-or-longer walks will benefit you physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
One problem many of us suffer from in life is that we feel we are too busy. We hurry from one appointment to the next, cramming in kids’ activities after work, and find our weekends filled with errands and busy tasks. Many of us commute to work or school, which steals time from our day. We find ourselves driving, or sitting in traffic, and typically this becomes wasted time for us. The demands of work and family either create stress or tire us out, so after the kids go to bed, the streaming service comes on, and we sit in front of our screens for an hour or two before going to bed and doing it all over again tomorrow.
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
One way to deliberately slow down and take back some time for yourself is to go for a long walk. The process of walking, of moving, helps you find a rhythm in your body that helps you to think better and to slow down.
But to find maximum effectiveness in this, there are several things you should note.
First, do not bring your phone with you. Create a “no devices” rule and plan to not interact with your phone during this. That means, no texts, no music or podcasts, no games. This is because you need this time of walking to help your mind process thoughts and emotions and adding new stimuli through texts and email, games, or music will hinder this process.
I do make one exception to this. Depending on the time I go out, or where I am walking, I take my phone but set it to airplane mode. That way, I have it for an emergency, but it’s not available otherwise. If I’m tempted to text, I have to turn airplane mode off and wait for the phone to reconnect–a process that takes enough time that the urge to text is gone.
You will be tempted to disregard this rule, but I encourage you to not give in to this temptation. Your walk will be much more refreshing without the constant distraction your phone creates.
Second, commit to walking for at least 30 minutes. This is a new habit, and it’s designed to take you out of your normal routine. You need something that will shake up your routine, and a 10 minute “power walk” won’t do it. So plan for at least 30 minutes. Find a route through your neighbourhood or go to a public walking trail. Walk for 15 minutes and turn around and walk back.
You may feel like you didn’t accomplish much. You are building the habit, and through repeated walks, your brain will begin to know this time as free, and creative thinking will be developed. I cannot tell you the number of times that, as I’ve been out for a walk, an answer to a problem pops into my head, or several creative ideas surface. Give yourself grace to build this habit without expectation, knowing that good things are happening even if you don’t immediately feel or see them.
Third, walk for walking’s sake. I distinguish this from walking to get somewhere. The objective is to slow down, to clear your mind, and to think. Walking from Point A to Point B because you have to get there will keep your mind focused on what needs to happen at Point B.
I’m not saying to not walk to destinations. I’m recommending that your “spiritual health walk” be its own thing that you engage in apart from everything else you do in your life.
Fourth, be regular with this–build the habit. A walk here or there, even if weekly, will not accomplish much. It is in the regularity of the habit that you will find and achieve growth. Both your body and brain will come to see this time as a time of clearing your mind and creating open space for creative thinking to move in.
Commit to trying this for a week and see how you feel. See what you learn. Pay attention to the answers to problems that you discover. Take note about how much better and clearer your thinking becomes. And then ask yourself, how is all of this helping me draw closer to God?
P.S. I’ve written quite about this in my book, Soul-Care for Shepherds, which is written mainly for pastors, but helpful to anyone looking to build a stronger spiritual life.
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