In Praise of Walking As (Affordable) Self-Care

Take a walk. It’s free.

Photo: Flickr

Several months ago, I started walking. I try to walk for 2 miles each day, five to six days a week. The walk takes approximately half an hour, is relaxing and fun. I started in the summer, and usually the weather is pleasant. Yet even if it rains, as long as it’s not pouring, I’m out there.

During the week I walk in the early evening after work, or in the morning or afternoon on a weekend. Sometimes during the day I see small bunnies, their tails fluffy and soft. When I walk in the evening, the houses look majestic with their lights on, as if I’m in a 19th century novel. No matter what the day or outcome, walking always puts me in a good mood, and I have never returned feeling down.

Recently, I walked 2.5 miles around my neighborhood on a Saturday afternoon. I felt lethargic from staying at home all day and needed a boost. The weather was great (73 degrees Fahrenheit), I could smell fall (warm, rich and slightly smoky), and my neighborhood never looked more beautiful as the trees gently turned from green to red, orange and yellow.

I love that walking is free. I am almost surprised that something so enjoyable does not cost any money. There is plenty of misinformation in our culture that claims we should spend a lot of money on self-care by buying fancy products to entertain and sooth ourselves. I like flipping off capitalism by doing something that both makes me feel good and is free. It is not based on my femininity or purchasing power, and it is good for both my body and mind.

Other forms of self-care I’ve tried include jogging and cooking, but walking is what really stuck. With jogging, I barely lasted a week, even when I went slowly (seriously, I think I walk faster than I can jog). Cooking is fun but I do it less as self-care because it requires more effort up front — buying ingredients, preparing the food, and packaging the leftovers afterwards. I’m fortunate that I’ve been living at home since the summer, and my mom usually cooks for the family.

Some people feel that by exercising or committing other acts of self-care that they are able to “tune out” their surroundings, but I never feel more present than on my walks. Occasionally I feel so energized that I walk a couple more miles if my body allows it. I feel more in tune with myself and my body. This, in turn, has made me more perceptive of my life — who I am, where I’m going, and where I want to go.

In particular, I love walking because of the confidence it’s given me. I feel like I have more control over my body than with other forms of self-care. I’m not out of breath, I go at my own pace and it doesn’t hurt my body. I don’t beat myself if I decide not to walk for a day, but the benefits are so strong that not walking just because “I’m tired” isn’t a good enough reason.

My favorite place to go walking is my neighborhood because of the convenience and comfort of being close to home. I realized this was the right mode of self-care for me because I kept going back for more. After my first walk, I looked forward to walking again the next day. It was simple and pleasurable, and I didn’t need to exert too much effort to feel good afterwards. Find ways to take care of yourself that make you feel good and can be done simply — ways that are cheap and don’t stretch your budget. Your mind, body and bank account will be so much happier.

Tamar Shulsinger is a writer and student living in Boston. In her spare time, she likes traveling around New England and getting brunch on weekends.

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