New Year, New Practice Series (Part 2): How Walking Helped Me to be More Kind to Others
Updated: Jan 31
Being told your job is on hold while you’re unexpectedly locked up in the house for weeks is hard. Witnessing people clamour for food and other basic necessities of life, while others fight over toilet paper, is perplexing. Realizing that you’re dealing with all of this amidst living with your immediate family and a menagerie of pets can push you to the brink of hysteria.
Well, perhaps not quite. But in 2020, I was close.
My home, despite its size, began to feel like a cramped studio apartment because someone was always around. My patience commenced to wear thinner than the threads of my favorite sweater. Every day started feeling like I was on the verge of experiencing abrupt emotional upheaval. Combine that with the angst of a mysterious viral plague and being kind was the last thing on my mind.
I’m not the only one who was thrust into overwhelming circumstances in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you were in a state that was under a shelter in place order, you probably realized that a profound mental stretch was required. Not only to keep track of space and time, but to grasp all of the information we were being inundated with.
Dealing with an array of feelings definitely took its toll during the onset of this infectious explosion. I did not want to become agitated, but at the same time wanted to avoid becoming apathetic, so I decided to start taking walks to clear my head. Living in the suburbs with wide streets, sidewalks and lots of greenery around was an ideal escape from sitting blankly in front of the news for hours, watching the death count tick up. The risk of catching the virus outdoors was low, so I gathered the courage to leave the house.
I had been inconsistent (at best) with my commitment to exercise prior to the COVID-19 outbreak; often blaming my avoidance of the gym on the lack of energy after teaching kids all day. I kept a gym bag packed in the trunk of my car, but I would just give in to the exhaustion and go directly home after work. When COVID hit, there was no work nor gym, but I could no longer make excuses for evading fitness.
It started as a 20 minute, inconsistent-paced stroll around the block with the barking of dogs and bold chirping of birds providing a soundtrack. I was preoccupied with what my coils were going to transform into if I started to even slightly sweat. But oddly, I resolved that walking outside was exactly what I needed to be doing. Because being in nature is truly a healing experience.
What started as a quick jaunt, evolved into an almost-four-mile trek up and down hills within the neighborhood.
I ended up walking about every other day, with the goal of getting out extra early before I had to negotiate the winding sidewalks with other determined step-counters and the stroller-jockeying moms. While the increased calories burned resulted in feeling more physically fit, the collateral benefits were plenty.
Generally, I felt better, with a more positive mood. Which according to the Mayo Clinic, is due to the increase of endorphins that happens when we exercise. I focused less on my fear surrounding COVID-19 because I was too distracted by the natural beauty that was around me—the diversity of dogs that trotted past and the variety of flora that decorated boring stucco and fences. I spent less time brooding over who ate the last of my hearth-baked sourdough bread because I was too busy pushing myself up those inclines—that inside voice motivating me along.
Those feel good hormones pushing me, I was encouraged by my own dedication to keep at it—despite the weather (which fluctuated between 40 degrees in the winter and triple digits in the summer), the aches and pains, and in spite of those days when I just did not feel like lacing up my shoes and heading out. However, I became grateful for the time alone. To process my thoughts and emotions, but also to get back in touch with the things I enjoyed—mostly music and audiobooks, but I realized that I truly enjoyed taking care of my body by giving it what it needed.
Being patient with myself on this journey opened up the door for me to be tolerant of others. I was less irritated because the mundane things bothered me less. I became protective of the peace I had achieved on my walks and therefore would practice the art of choosing my battles. I’d ask myself if whatever was bothering me was truly serious or just a momentary nuisance. Some of the things that I found myself grumbling about early on, came to be less important. I also accepted that I had very little control over a lot of it, so it was easier to funnel that energy into something more productive.
This attitude transferred into how I interacted with my family. My walking adventures gave me other subjects to discuss, so I could engage in a different manner. My energy increase resulted in my being able to accomplish more in less time. So with what I had freed up, I could share with someone else. It was as if the resilience in my physical body transferred to my mind and I was able to manage conflicts more effectively—all of which culminated in my being kinder.
© 2022 Evangeline Lawson