Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Freeing The Mind With Movement

"It is only ideas gained from walking that have any worth."
"[Being able to] walk in the mountains for seven or eight hours without a trace of weariness [enables philosophical composition]."
"The suppleness of my muscles has always been greatest when my creative energies were flowing most abundantly."
Friedrich Nietzsche, In Twilight of the Idols (1889)

"If I couldn't walk fast and far, I should just explode and perish."
Charles Dickens letter from Boulogne, France, 1850

"The only friend to walk with is one who so exactly shares your taste for each mood of the countryside that a glance, a halt, or at most a nudge, is enough to assure us that the pleasure is shared."
C.S. Lewis, Author of  The Chronicles of Narnia

"There is something about the pace of walking and the pace of thinking that goes together. Walking requires a certain amount of attention but it leaves great parts of the time open to thinking. I do believe once you get the blood flowing through the brain it does start working more creatively."
"Your senses are sharpened. As a writer, I also use it as a form of problem solving. I'm far more likely to find a solution by going for a walk than sitting at my desk and 'thinking'."
Geoff Nicholson, The Lost Art of Walking

It was observed of Steve Jobs who used the mind-clearing exercise of walking to tease his mind toward clarity and inspiration, that "Taking a long walk was his preferred way to have a serious conversation", as stated in the biography of Apple's co-founder, written by Walter Isaacson. Taking inspiration from a man whose inventive genius was an example to many others in the field, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is also credited with adopting the walking-to-think example.

Charles Darwin is reputed to have walked constantly along what he termed his "thinking path", a road called Sandwalk Wood located close to his home in southeast England. He developed a habit of three-45-minute walks each day; before breakfast, lunch, and the third post-prandially, in the early evening. His son attested to his father's rarely straying from the routine. And it was that routine he relied upon to aid him in finalizing his theory of natural selection and random mutation.

Ludwig van Beethoven, deaf at 40, had his own regimented routine that included regular walking. He would intersperse his composition time with swift forays out of doors to refresh his mind. Once his working day was completed, he would take long, solitary walks carrying with him a pencil and notepad to stroll the Viennese woods. There to find inspiration, then recording them. His sixth symphony the "Pastoral" is complete with woodwind sounds of various birds he heard during his rambles.

Henry David Thoreau, George Orwell, Thomas De Quincy, Constantin Brancuso, Bruce Chatwin and Vladimir Nabokov all indulged in walking to release themselves from the stress of life and work, allowing their minds to roam creatively, indulging their natural creativity and in the process enriching their originality, unleashed through the serenity and mind-wandering that captivated their inner consciousness, gifting society with the results.

And now researchers with Stanford University have validated the process of unleashing creativity through the act and art of walking. The study results, conducted by Marily Oppezzo and Daniel L. Schwartz, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology resulted from an experiment where participants were tasked with undertaking Guilford's Alternative Uses Test.

This is a timed activity meant to measure creative thinking; while sitting, and alternatively while walking on a treadmill. The two researchers discovered that walking did indeed increase creativity for 82% of the research participants, with increases of output averaging 60%. The test evaluates the quantity of ideas, but also their quality; the originality of ideas and specificity of those ideas. Additional ideas were generated while walking, of a high quality; innovative and practical.

The advice of those who engage in walking is simply to go out and do it. The benefits endowed by so doing are just too numerous to overlook, from the simple enjoyment of exercising limbs, to the freedom to look about and appreciate a landscape, to the freeing of the mind while taking in prevailing clues of light, distance, fragrances and activities taking place all about; whether in an urban streetscape or a woodland landscape ramble, the results are manifold.

Human beings were not designed to sit for interminable hours at desks staring at computer screens and exercising their cerebral matter through forced communication without some manner of inspirational motivation interrupting the stagnation of movement and boredom. Walking does that, the ingestion of the scene through fresh air to stimulate the brain along with the physical momentum of striding along and appreciating the sensations that surround and impress.

From those stimulations come the urge to indulge in performing some measure of expression, for we are creatures meant to communicate, whatever the tools we use at our disposal; words, paint, sculpture, music, or dance.  

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