Are you starting to think about your resolutions for 2012? You know the kind -- off to the gym 4 times a week in a burst to lose those excess festive pounds? Of course we all know that it’s a good idea to incorporate exercise into our daily routines as it’s more likely to get done that way and walking to school with your kids is ingraining in them some important values about exercise and fresh air. I want to give walking a plug for two other equally important reasons. It’s good for your mental and emotional health and it’s really good at stimulating communication with your children.
At this time of year in the Northern hemisphere we need to wrap up warmer to beat the Nordic conditions and may feel slightly resistant to get outside (I hope I’m not the only one who feels that way) so I may need to make an awfully strong case for walking other than to the kettle in your kitchen. I’m advocating a therapeutic tool which is infinitely variable, completely free and offers side benefits in terms of physical health as well. I’m proposing a tool that can bring parents and children (and couples) closer together without any expert intervention or having to read any heavy tomes. This miracle solution helps unblock your mind when problem saturated, it helps you to see things more clearly, helps you gain perspective and a more positive outlook and it is an aid to developing important communication skills in your children. Anyway, here in Britain, someone once said there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.
On what basis do I make these fulsome claims? Well more learned (and certainly more famous) writers than I have wondered about this before. Nietzsche wrote that “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking” and he had some good thoughts. Henry Thoreau also apparently liked to amble as he said “Methinks the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.” I’ve also had some good thoughts whilst in the shower or just as I’m about to go to sleep (those ones lost to oblivion unless I write them down there and then) but I have also had the experience that when something is troubling me I need to move. When I was studying at university I used to walk around the room with my notes in my hand. Some of us are quite kinaesthetic learners, meaning we learn best while moving. Try getting your child to move when doing any rote learning like spellings or tables or even more complicated thought processes.
Apart from the benefits of oxygen to the brain I think it’s just the repetitive movement of putting one foot in front of the other that helps stimulate the brain as well as getting away from the distracting environment of our homes. In any case, when my husband and I have a problem we find we need to leave the house (also our working environment) and walk to find a solution. When I feel upset or angry I find walking at a frenetic pace helps but if I’m feeling sad or just thinking, a more laconic amble works – my dogs are getting very sensitive to my moods! A good breeze can only assist in the head clearing process. Encourage and model walking for your kids as an effective emotional release.
I promised another great result from walking with your kids –communication. Learned psychologist and parenting author Steve Biddulph talks about the need for ‘sideways’ talk with boys and I would agree that boys especially, but not exclusively, prefer a style of communication which involves doing some activity alongside them rather than an eyeball to eyeball Deep and Meaningful. I find my boys open up more when we’re out walking than at any other time. We may talk about things that are troubling them or just things that interest them. My youngest has long conversations with my husband about history and politics and it gives me great pleasure to watch his stride outstripping his father’s as they chat about their shared interests.
When you walk and talk you have an opportunity to use a technique to build rapport which in Neuro Lingustic Programming is called ‘mirroring’. At its simplest level this merely involves matching your stride to the other person’s. As you get more expert you may swing your arms in rhythm, match head movements and ultimately synchronise your breathing to the other person’s –then you are in accord, even though the content of your conversation may involve disagreement.
So enjoy the great outdoors and absorb all the therapeutic, creative and communication benefits as well as noticing the details of the change of season and burning a few calories!
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