This becomes easier the more we deepen our self-connection.
Inner Leadership recommends four ways we can achieve this. Two of those ways are taking exercise and spending time in nature. We obtain the maximum benefit when we combine the two.
Hippocrates said, “Walking is our best medicine.” Doctors in the England, Scotland, and the USA are now literally writing prescriptions for outdoor activity.
Drug: Exercise in the countryside or park
Dose: 45 minutes of running or walking
Directions: Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, 7am
The UK also has several outdoor exercise programmes, including Boot Camps and Green Gyms. (You can read about the top ten here.) In the USA there are at least 50 such programmes. And the Appalachian Mountain Club is even working with MassGeneral Hospital to prescribe regular outdoor physical activity for children.
In Australia, people are increasingly exploring the health and medical benefits of their national parks. And the Japanese government has long recommended the benefits of forest bathing. It reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and boosts our immune systems.
But outdoor exercise is not only good for our bodies, it is also good for our minds and souls. As Nietzsche said, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” Increasing numbers of people are going on long distance walks such as the Appalachian Trail or a Camino. They say the first week’s walking stretches your mind, the second week stretches your body, and the third week stretches your soul. I recently met somebody who walked a Camino as a way to gain clarity on a life-changing investment decision. Another used the time away from distractions to gain clarity on a complex creative project.
So on the one hand it might seem crazy that we have forgotten to do something as simple as take exercise in nature. But on the other hand it works. Mind and body are one system. And people who take exercise outside not only get fit, they also feel happier and gain vitamin D from sunlight.
Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.
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(And remember: you don’t learn to swim by reading about swimming, you also have to practice.)