I often advise clients to “take a walk by the lake,” by which I mean “get out of the house” and “get out of your head.” There’s just about no better way to solve a creative problem or to incubate a new idea than to take a walk. Many of our great geniuses penciled in a daily walk every day of their lives, knowing its benefits both as a mind cleanser and a mind activator. That’s the theme of today’s post, from creativity coach Sarah Salway: the idea of taking your creativity for a walk.
Depending on where you are in the world, your daily walk during this pandemic may be your one chance to be outside (hello, my fellow Brits) or just another part of your regular exercise routine. We all know the health benefits of walking by now, but what if you could also make walking a creative and imaginative exercise? Could it become a chance to play?
Here are five ideas to do just that:
1. Get lost.
My guess is that most of us take every precaution not to get lost, but what might happen if we took a chance and followed a new direction? Every time I’ve done this, I’ve been aware that while walking without a clear purpose initially creates a feeling close to anxiety, I soon notice new things that help me connect with where I live and who I am. One way to do this is to work out an algorithmic pattern in advance: for example, writing out a list of instructions, such as first left turn, second right, first left, etc., and see where it takes you.
2. Take a question to the streets.
You might want to formulate a question before you start walking. As you walk with your question in mind, where your attention falls may guide you to an answer. It can be a good exercise to do with a friend. When I’ve done this, it’s astonishing how we notice completely different things and how each of us answers our own questions.
3. Go on a treasure hunt.
Colors, numbers, memories—there are as many possible treasures as there are places to walk in. But two tried-and-trusted hunts I regularly set for myself are:
- Alphabetical — I look for something beginning with a, then b, then c… the trick is to keep to the right order.
- Wabi-sabi — wabi-sabi is a life-changing Japanese aesthetic which appreciates the beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.” Although it’s more usually linked to nature, you can search for it in the built environment too. What can you notice that has gotten more beautiful through age and wear?
4. Turn it into something bigger.
What if you could convert your short daily walks into a trek along the Great Wall of China? Well, with many available apps, you can choose where in the world you would like to go, virtually, of course. But then using our imagination may be as close as we get to international travel at the moment.
5. Strengthen your joy muscle.
I’ve kept my favorite until last. Simply start noticing every little thing along your walk that brings you joy. It may be a slight smile at a funny dog or a lustful knee wobble at some particularly beautiful brickwork. The key is that it is absolutely personal. And the best thing is that the more you search for it, the more joy you will find.
You can visit Sarah Salway at www.sarahsalway.co.uk.
This post was previously published on Psychology Today.
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