It is no exaggeration to say that taking a walk outside almost every day of the year has completely transformed my mindset, health, and perspective on life.
Now, let me just preface this by saying that I love the gym, really enjoy high intensity workouts, and have been going on runs (not walks) since middle school. For many people who know me, daily walks might not, shall we say, seem to *fit* my personality.
But after taking a walk outside nearly every day for the past year, I am telling you – few things have impacted my life for the better this significantly.
When it all began…
I first started really enjoying walks outside when my now-husband and I moved back to Wisconsin from Atlanta. Our neighborhood in Madison felt like a nature preserve compared to all the pavement and traffic where we lived in Atlanta, lol.
Then, we bought our first house in January 2019, which is right on a park with walking and biking trails. I started to really enjoy ending my work day with a walk outside in fresh air, sometimes while listening to a podcast.
Gradually, walking outside + listening to a podcast became somewhat of a ritual. A way to press reset and clear my mind from the day. I was going to the gym less + less because this little ritual felt so life-giving.
Taking a walk outside helps me tap into a part of me that I can’t tap into any other way. And because of that, my life has been changed – and continues to change for the better – in four amazing ways.
01. I discovered the joy of walking outside in nature.
Often times, I like to do things because it feels good to accomplish something and work toward a goal. Walking outside is not one of those things. I’m not setting any personal records or trying to build endurance or strength. I simply love taking a walk in nature.
Making time each day to pause, feel the sun on my skin, be inspired by trees + flowers + birds + snow + rain + seasons, and experience how amazing it is that I have legs + a body that can move and take me places has opened my eyes. It has helped me learn to do things for the pure sake of enjoyment rather than to reach a goal or accomplish something.
I realized that I don’t do enough things just because I LIKE doing them. Yeah, I’ve always liked running… but honestly. I like walking more. Running burns more calories and is more efficient, yes. But maybe my life shouldn’t always be about efficiency and burning calories!
Okay, I know it’s sort of contradictory for me to say that because I usually walk with a podcast. That’s efficient – exercise + learning something new. But I genuinely love it. Some days, I do just need to hear the sound of the birds or be surrounded by quiet though. So my point is that taking a walk outside has helped me learn to be okay with and actually *love* doing something for the pure sake of enjoyment – nothin’ else.
I believe that connecting with nature is a foundational aspect of health. I genuinely feel so happy – and my healthiest – when I’m spending more time outside. It’s essential to my well-being. And I realized there is so much happiness in doing something just to enjoy the present moment.
02. I absolutely love all four seasons now.
Wisconsin winters are long. Doing things outside in ten degrees used to sound horrible to me. I didn’t really have any outdoor winter hobbies because I thought it was just too darn cold.
BUT THEN. I decided to put on my LL Bean winter coat and boots, a hat, scarf, mittens, and multiple layers of clothing, and go outside.
Thank God I did because I now enjoy walking outside in zero degrees equally as much as walking outside in 70 degrees. I’m not even exaggerating. I should get a photo in my gear some time, it’s ridiculous. You can’t even tell who I am because there’s only like two inches of skin showing haha.
Anyway, taking a walk outside in the middle of winter in Wisconsin is probably one of the most peaceful, serene things a human can do. I’ll set the scene for you.
You go out on some trails right behind your home after a long day of work. No driving required, you just step outside and walk. The sun is setting and there’s a white blanket of snow covering the ground. At the top of the trail, you pause to watch the sky turn shades of pink and orange – the most beautiful contrast against the white snow. You take a deep breath and inhale the refreshing, cool winter air. There isn’t a single human in sight, and all you hear is the sound of your own breath. In that moment, the world seems to be perfectly still.
Okay, MAYBE I’m really, really weird. But I’m telling you – winter walks are one of my favorite things on earth. I think when I’m 60 years old I’ll get all nostalgic and reminisce on this time when I was 26. And when I started going on awe-inspiring walks every night until it was dark out.
It’s freezing out A LOT of the year here in Wisconsin. And I’m just so glad I found something I enjoy this much and can do all year long. It’s hard to imagine not being able to take a walk outside for almost five months of the year just because it’s cold and snowy.
Finding a way to enjoy life, rather than just get through it because of circumstances you have ZERO control over, is essential in my opinion.
03. Taking a walk outside is my own form of meditation.
Walking outside calms, centers, and focuses my mind. The physical benefits of walking are great, but the #1 reason I walk is for my mental well-being. I am a more content, relaxed person because I’ve discovered a way to meditate that works for me.
I’m always mentioning this quote from a psychologist, Gay Hendricks, that I heard on a podcast once because I think it’s profound. “Breathing and moving is the quickest way to chase fear out of your body.”
When I’m walking, I’m taking deeper breaths. When I’m walking outside, I’m taking even deeper inhales + exhales. I don’t know all the science behind it, but combining breath and movement just melts my anxiety away.
Taking a walk outside is my #1 tool to manage stress + anxiety.
There’s something about deep breathing, getting out in nature, and simple movement, that when combined, is trans. for. ma. tion. al.
If you’re interested in more stress/anxiety management tools, take a look at my other blog post with 10 actionable strategies to manage anxiety.
04. Walks have been a time to infuse my mind with positivity.
My secret sauce here is not just walking, it’s walking + nature + listening to a podcast (most of the time). And not just any podcast, but a podcast that is positive and encouraging.
To each their own, but if I listened to a news podcast every day I do not think I’d be writing this blog post. And I’m 99% sure my anxiety and stress levels would be higher.
On my walks, I flood my brain with new ideas, tools + strategies, inspiration, encouragement, education, and positive words coming from the person behind the microphone. I realize I sound slightly annoying.
But this has led to SO MANY POSITIVE THINGS IN MY LIFE.
And I want you to have positive things in your life too, so I don’t care if I sound annoying!!
For example, I started an Etsy shop. I 1000% believe I would not have started my Etsy shop when I did – or maybe at all – if I didn’t infuse my mind with encouraging words from podcasters. Hearing stories of people who just went for their dreams and stumbled their way through starting a business gave me the courage I needed.
Example #2: this here blog, Nourish with Nik. Have you ever heard the saying that you become the average of the five people you spend the most time with? While I don’t think it’s quite that simple or dramatic, I believe in the core of this message. Which I interpret as this: Be intentional about who you spend the most time with because those people can greatly influence your life.
The people speaking into my earbuds on a daily basis helped me believe in myself + my dreams of starting this blog. If I weren’t listening to tips, strategies, and inspiration so often, it would be a lot easier to doubt myself and my ideas. The five people I spend the most time with probably aren’t going to be flooding my brain with this kind of stuff. Which is understandable + perfectly fine. But I decided to seek out people who would.
And podcasts have brought positivity into my life beyond just starting a business. It’s a wonderful way to hear new perspectives and learn something new. Or honestly, sometimes just laugh and be entertained without staring at a screen.
It is truly hard to imagine my life today if I hadn’t started walking outside almost every day.
My daily walks + podcasts bring me so much pure, simple joy. They have helped me appreciate + enjoy all four seasons. My mental well-being has improved significantly by discovering my own form of meditation and being outside in nature more often. And walking with a podcast has added a new layer of positivity + encouragement to my life.
Something magical happens when we allow ourselves to just be + soak in the everyday small moments just because. When we allow ourselves to live in the present + do something simply because we like it. When we open our lives up to more peace + space. When we allow ourselves to walk instead of run + hurry through life.
What is something in your life that you’ve found to be so simple, yet profoundly life-changing? Drop me a comment below because I’d love to hear!