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Why Walking Helps Us Think

https://www.newyorker.com/tech/annals-of-technology/walking-helps-us-think

newyorker.com

Why Walking Helps Us Think
Since at least the time of Greek philosophers, many writers have discovered a deep, intuitive connection between walking, thinking, and writing.

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The connection between walking and thinking

The connection between walking and thinking
  • Walking changes our chemistry. The heart pumps faster, circulating more blood and oxygen to all the organs and the brain.
  • Walking promotes new connections between brain cells and increases the volume of the hippocampus (a brain region essential for memory)
  • Walking elevates levels of molecules that stimulate the growth of new neurons and transmit messages between them.

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Walking linked with creativity

The way we move our bodies changes the nature of our thoughts. When we stroll, the pace of our feet fluctuates with our moods. We can change the pace of our thoughts by deliberately walking faster or by slowing down.

While we walk, our attention is free to wander. Studies have linked this mental state to innovative ideas.

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Where we walk matters

Studies suggest that spending time in green spaces can renew the mental resources that get depleted in man-made environments.

A crowded intersection provides numerable and immediate stimulations for the mind, but a walk in a park allows our mind to drift casually from one sensory experience to another.

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The relationship between walking and writing

Walking organizes our world around us. Writing organizes our thoughts.

In a forest, our brain must survey the surrounding environment, make a mental map of the world, choose a way forward and create that plan into a series of footsteps. In writing the brain has to review its own landscape, find a way through that mental terrain, and write down the resulting trail of thoughts.

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The Slowness Rage

The Slowness Rage

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Slow Life Is A Problem

Slow things are slowly driving us crazy. Society is now on a fast pace, and this has wrapped our sense of timing.

The accelerating pace of society has set off a cycle, resetting our internal timers. Rage for others who are slow eventually sabotages our timers. This is a downward spiral, where will power doesn’t work, and can even be detrimental.

Impatience: The New Virtue

Evolution has given us impatience. We are given the impulse to act, to choose, to abandon or to chase something else, in the limited time we have, instead of spending time in a single unrewarding or slow activity.

Taking into account the speed of communication that is now 10 million times faster than before, and human movement, which is now 100 times faster, we can see society picking up speed and becoming increasingly impatient.

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Creativity and problem solving

Creativity is about problem-solving. And creativity is also about finding problems to solve in the first place: perceiving them, defining them, explaining them, and recordin...

Diving and swimming

This technique requires 2 steps:

  • Deep immersion into a subject matter without specifically looking for an answer to your problem.
  • Letting go completely while you process that information (actually walking away from it), to allow good ideas to bubble up from the subconscious and into clear view.

Exaptation

This is the ability to reach beyond a specific field of expertise and create new uses for an older thing. It’s about taking one thing and using it for a different purpose than intended.

For example: Apply a cooking recipe to a marketing strategy or use a spreadsheet program to organize words for your poetry.

Think like Sherlock Holmes

“What Sherlock Holmes offers isn’t just a way of solving a crime. It is an entire way of thinking."

"Holmes provides... an education in improving our faculty of mindful thought...

Engagement

As children, we are remarkably aware to the world around us. This attention wanes over time as we allow more pressing responsibilities to attend to and demands on our minds to address. And as the demands on our attention increase so, too, does our actual attention decrease.

 As it does so, we become less and less able to know or notice our own thought habits and more and more allow our minds to dictate our judgments and decisions, instead of the other way around.

Pitfalls of the Untrained Brain

Daniel Kahneman believes there are two systems for organizing and filtering knowledge: 

  • System one is real-time. This system makes judgments and decisions before our mental apparatus can consciously catch up. 
  • System two, on the other hand, is a slow process of thinking based on critical examination of evidence. Konnikova refers to these as System Watson and System Holmes.

To move from a System Watson- to a System Holmes-governed thinking takes mindfulness plus motivation.