If you were the next Forest Gump and wanted to walk Earth in a straight line without hitting the water, here’s your guide.
The path starts east in China and ends in Liberia.
Lace up those walking shoes, we’ve got a project for you. An intrepid cartographer has, with the help of Google Earth, tracked down the longest-possible straight land path on earth – and it starts in China.
Just start walking due west from Shitangzhen, a town south of Taizhou, in Zhejiang Province. Keep on moseying, and in about 589 miles you’ll hit Wuhan. You will then, eventually, pass just south of Xi’an and (sooner or later) hit Qinghai. Getting tired yet?
After a brisk hike (i.e. crossing the Himalayas) you’ll end up in Tajikistan. From there, it’s just a quick poke through Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Egypt (right through the heart of Cairo!) Libya, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast and, finally, hit Liberia.
Sitting is the new smoking. While that claim may be a bit exaggerated, it is an effective reminder to remind ourselves to take our body for a walk.
The more than 360 joints inside our bodies are also ample evidence that we are built to stand up and move. And while more offices are including stand up desks and other mobility devices, the sedentary lifestyle still dominates.
Sitting for long periods of time reduces overall blood flow, particularly the oxygen that gets pushed via bloodstream through the lungs to the brain.
So, set yourself a reminder to get up every half hour and move around. But beware of text neck.
Said Henry David Thoreau, “Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”
Walking boosts creativity.
If you ever get stuck in a creative rut, science shows that you should go for a stroll to get your endorphins moving.
As learning scientist Marily Oppezzo notes in her TED presentation below, walking generates twice the ideas. Even if you walk and then sit, your mind will continue to generate novelty.
But you can’t just walk forever, nor should you run. You should discuss your ideas out loud; the good ones will stick around. If you really want to remember everything discussed, record the thinking session on your phone.
So, how do you walk and brainstorm?
Pick a problem/topic for brainstorm
Walk at a comfortable pace WHILE you are brainstorming
Generate as many ideas a you can
Speak and record your ideas
Cap your time
The chair-based lifestyle is not only killing us, but it’s also stifling good ideas. Go for a walk to freshen up your pattern of thinking.
“With writing as with walking you often find that you’re not heading exactly where you thought you wanted to go. There’ll be missteps and stumbles, journeys into dead ends, the reluctant retracing of your steps. And you have to tell yourself that’s just fine, that it’s a necessary, and not wholly unenjoyable, part of the process. It’s an exploration,” writes Geoff Nicholson in his book The Lost Art of Walking.
Writing, like walking, is getting lost but at the same time, trusting that wherever the pen and feet go as you ramble and amble around will be met with strange discoveries.
As Rebecca Solnit writes in Wanderlust: A History of Walking, “Language is like a road; it cannot be perceived all at once because it unfolds in time, whether heard or read.”
Our inner narrative is alive 24/7. Most of our thoughts are garbage, random and unintelligible. But we can dictate some of it, to write the book in our head we want to hear.
That’s why it’s so critical to surround ourselves with things that reinforce the way we want to think and live. When author Ryan Holiday got stuck on his last book, he walked the streets of New Orleans to reboot his mind.
New Orleans was really the perfect city to write in. I said at my first book signing that writing a book is really a series of long walks. There’s not a better city to walk in in America. It’s old and beautiful and slow. There’s a history of great writers there—a connectedness to the past that was inspiring. I was having trouble finishing this book I’ve been working on and I actually just went and spent 10 days there to recapture it. Worked like a charm.
In reality, we’re never stuck. When it comes to the mind, there is no such thing as talker’s block. We are in continuous dialogue with ourselves. But we decide to catch, ignore, emphasize, and act on is what makes all the difference. If we want something, we have to extract meaning from both external and internal worlds.
We become the person we look and listen to. To quote author Charles Bukowski: “Yes, it’s the dream that keeps you going then and now.”
The farther you go, the more interesting it gets. Through walking you discover.
“The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts. This creates an odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it.” – Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking
Placebo effects are imaginary. They work because they help establish a mindset of control. When you push a button a crosswalk, the perception is that you have communicated with the traffic light system to accommodate your safety. However, even in New York, placebo buttons are all in the pedestrian’s imagination.
Placebos are the joysticks for the mind, giving you fake confidence and power over your surroundings. It is not that taking fish oils will prevent your brain from dementia — it is that you believe they will. Take this, touch this, and you’ll feel better. It is the promise of feeling, not the guarantee of effectiveness in the placebo itself. If the placebo works, it must be true. Truth happens to the placebo.
Artists are toying with the concept of the placebo by gamifying them. It’s their way of reminding people that seeking certainty is sometimes all in your head.
“Germany a group of interaction design students have developed another way to keep pedestrians busy while they wait, replacing a pointless placebo with an entertaining activity. When the walk light is red, people waiting across the street from one another can share a short game of Pong, playing on screens attached to corner traffic light posts.”
It is human nature to erase doubt and ensure our safety. Placebos institute a way of thinking of how things should go, thus increasing our chances of success. But as the dummy crosswalk lights reveal, control is all in your head. Placebos are a mindset, an illusory cure for fear.
A recent study led by a University of Chicago professor of psychology demonstrates the positive impact of being surrounded by trees.
“Berman and his colleagues showed that an additional ten trees on a given block corresponded to a one-per-cent increase in how healthy nearby residents felt. “To get an equivalent increase with money, you would have to give each household in that neighborhood ten thousand dollars—or make people seven years younger.'”
The study did not stop there. It also turns out that the location of the trees also plays an important role. That is, the trees are more likely to calm you down if they are at the front of your home rather than the backyard where you are less likely to see them.
Professor Marc Berman also conducted a study 15 years prior that showed that walking through nature improves memory, attention, and mood more effectively than walking through the streets.
“Natural environments, on the other hand, provide what Berman calls “softly fascinating stimulation.” Your eye is captured by the shape of a branch, a ripple in the water; your mind follows.”
Want to feel richer and younger? Plant some more trees! Want to feel more relaxed and focused? Ignore the street heat and go for a walk in the woods.