Over at The New Yorker, Ferris Jabr explains why walking helps us think:
Because we don’t have to devote much conscious effort to the act of walking, our attention is free to wander—to overlay the world before us with a parade of images from the mind’s theatre. This is precisely the kind of mental state that studies have linked to innovative ideas and strokes of insight. Earlier this year, Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz of Stanford published what is likely the first set of studies that directly measure the way walking changes creativity in the moment. They got the idea for the studies while on a walk. “My doctoral advisor had the habit of going for walks with his students to brainstorm,” Oppezzo says of Schwartz. “One day we got kind of meta.”
As a former New Yorker, I walked everywhere for photo-shooting, idea generation, and because sometimes it’s the easiest way to get to where you’re going.
Over at CNN Money, Matt McFarland looks into the the benefits of taking walks and why so many top execs take them:
Marc Berman, a University of Chicago psychology professor, has found that walking in nature can improve what’s called directed attention, when we force ourselves to focus on a task. With the other type of attention, involuntary attention, our interest is naturally captured and held, such as by a sunset.
“You don’t hear people say ‘Wow I’m so exhausted looking at that beautiful waterfall,'” Berman told CNNMoney.
When we’re in nature, our directed attention isn’t lost on distractions. You don’t waste brainpower focusing on the conference room you’re in, your chirping cell phone, or making sure a car won’t hit you. We only have so much attention to use, so saving every bit is an advantage.
I take walks all the time. I suppose the habit began during the 10 years I lived in Manhattan. When you live in New York you do a lot of walking. I walked everywhere and for different reasons. Sometimes I walked to clear my head, sometimes to take pictures, and sometimes just because the weather was nice.
I recommend everybody pick up this habit. There are no downsides, just don’t fall down a hole or get hit by a car.
Over at The New York Times, Moshe Bar on the benefits of a clear mind:
Recently, I discovered how much we overlook, not just about the world, but also about the full potential of our inner life, when our mind is cluttered. In a study published in this month’s Psychological Science, the graduate student Shira Baror and I demonstrate that the capacity for original and creative thinking is markedly stymied by stray thoughts, obsessive ruminations and other forms of “mental load.” Many psychologists assume that the mind, left to its own devices, is inclined to follow a well-worn path of familiar associations. But our findings suggest that innovative thinking, not routine ideation, is our default cognitive mode when our minds are clear.
I always love the stories about how Steve Jobs would go on walks a lot, either to negotiate deals with other people or just by himself.
I do it a lot myself here in San Francisco, but I think the habit got formed in my 10+ years living in Manhattan because in New York, you have to walk everywhere (why wouldn’t you want to?).
It’s amazing the ideas that pop in my head when I’m walking. If you don’t do it, you should give it a try.