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Walking Myself to Happiness

Luckily, I never quite thought of walking as “exercise”. I say luckily because if I’d made that association, I might have convinced myself I hated walking, too, even though I actually liked it.

Walking isn’t only about exercise

And while I suppose part of me knew walking was exercise, it was easy to ignore that because much of the time, I had to walk. Not being disabled, my feet and legs were required to move me around the house, between classes and school, and get me to the candy store.

Refusing to walk altogether was therefore impossible, so it fell outside the forced nature of other exercise, like phys ed class or using the elliptical machine.

This left me open to recognizing something else: walking makes me happy. This was true even during those heavy years, though sometimes for different reasons. As a teen, since I didn’t have my driver’s license and never got into biking, walking was often the only way for me to get away for a while. I needed that time when I could escape my parents’ observation, or walk away before saying something to them I might regret.

Time to reflect and enjoy nature

More than that, though, walking gives me the chance to get outside of my head and whatever might plague me: sorrow, grief, anger, loneliness, lethargy. It can also help calm me down if I’m overly excited about something. It’s also a good way to get away from screens these days, when I’m on the computer so much.

When I’m walking, I start focusing on the world around me. Even living in a city, I can find nature all around: the antics of squirrels, the play of light and shadow, the changing leaves, gardens and flowerbeds, graceful flocks of pigeons, the crisp white of seagull feathers, light on water.

Photo of Jewell Falls (near my house) from a recent walk

Walking, my mood lifts without any real effort on my part.

The funny thing is, though, I still sometimes have to make myself go outside. I know I’ll enjoy walking, but I can still make up all kinds of excuses not to go out: it’s too much effort to put on shoes and coat; it’s too cold (although that’s becoming less of an option during these warmer days); I have too many other things to do.

But if I can get myself out there, once I begin moving, the enjoyment of it takes over, and I’m glad to be out.

Walking can have a big impact

Looking back, I also can’t help thinking that walking played a role in my weight loss. I didn’t, after all, go to the gym, take any exercise classes, or buy any home gym equipment. I did have small hand weights that I used a bit, but mostly, I walked.

And without even quite realizing it, I walked myself into happiness.


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