To Get Out of Your Head, Go For a Walk

The mind is an incredibly powerful tool. It’s also a two-edged sword — it can bring out the best or worst in you.

More often than not, when you are not actively doing anything, the brain daydreams overthinks the past or future and contemplates others’ perceptions of us. Psychologists call it the “default mode network” (D-M network).

When we are in this state, we look for ways to validate our own personal theories or ruminate on things that have made us upset or anxious in the past. When we overthink things, we cannot let go of our analysis and take action. Instead of seeing opportunities for change, we get stuck in our heads and think about everything worst wrong in our lives.

It’s important to realize that the D-M network isn’t just something we should try to avoid. It is a part of who we are as human beings. And when left unchecked, it can lead us down some pretty dark paths.

One of the most beneficial ways to get out of your head is to simply go for a walk. You have to physically move and put some space between yourself and your thoughts; otherwise, they’ll just keep coming back to haunt you.

“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it,” explains Søren Kierkegaard, an existentialist philosopher.

Taking a break from your thoughts and surroundings will allow you to clear your mind and relax, which can help you feel more focused and productive when you return. Not only that but it has also been shown to improve your mood and reduce stress levels.

Even if you’re only going for a short walk, taking time out of your day to get some fresh air can be highly beneficial.

A simple 15-minute walk around the neighborhood, at a park, nature reserve can be enough to shift your perspective and break through mental barriers. Whatever you choose, just getting out of negative mental space is vital for your mental health. You don’t even need to set a goal or destination; just walk in whatever direction feels right.

Why is this important? Besides minimizing overthinking, your brain needs frequent breaks to keep functioning optimally or make better mental connections. If it doesn’t get these breaks often enough, stress will build up and begin to slow down your cognitive processing speed.

That means that it takes longer for your brain to figure things out and make new associations — which can make it more difficult for you to solve problems or come up with creative solutions. But staying active doesn’t just help keep your brain active — it also helps combat stress by releasing endorphins that make you feel good instead of miserable.

“The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy; walk and be healthy,” Charles Dickens said.

If you’re not used to taking walks, start with short distances before gradually building up the distance over time. In addition to getting fresh air and exercise, a regular walk will help clear your mind.

Staying in a stagnant environment too much will cause your brain to start producing excess stress hormones. The result? You won’t be able to think clearly, and you’ll feel trapped and frustrated.

In our increasingly busy world, it’s easy for our minds to wander away from the present and into the past or future. However, staying in our heads too much can prevent us from fully living in the present moment.

Staying grounded through activities like walking can help us return to reality and take in new sights again.

Walking is a great way to get out of your head and relax. The fresh air, rhythmic movement and time spent alone with your thoughts create the perfect environment to clear your mind.

There’s a lot of talk about being mindful and staying in the present moment. It’s easy to focus on everything that bothers you, but it can be hard to fully accept those feelings.

Sometimes there’s just too much noise in our heads, and it’s hard to get anything productive done. If you want to get out of your head and into your life, the simplest way is to go for a walk.

Walking has been shown to help with depression. It can also encourage us to look at our surroundings and appreciate nature instead of focusing on ourselves so much.

“Walking five miles a day or more provides the type of low-intensity exercise that yields all the cardiovascular benefits you might expect, but it also has a positive effect on muscles and bones — without the joint-pounding damage caused by running marathons or triathlons,” says Dan Buettner, in his book, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.

If you’re like most people, you probably spend a lot of time thinking about things. Thoughts about the future, regrets from your past, and even mundane things like what to wear or where you should go for dinner.

Thinking about all these things probably leaves you feeling anxious and restless; trapped in your head. But making time for yourself will help you get through your own personal struggles and become more productive. It’s time to get out of your head and into action. Go for a walk.

This article originally appeared in Medium.