Being a freelancer and business owner is a wonderful thing: we get to set our own hours, work free from distractions (like the guy in the next cubicle with the bag of baby carrots), and be choosier about our clients and the work we take on.
But with self-employment comes the challenge of staying healthy in both mind and body. Isolation can be a big problem for freelancers, and most of us need to take concrete steps towards staying connected with our friends and our editing pals. I use Facebook groups for the latter, and have a group of like-minded IRL (“in real life”) friends I see regularly for my in-person social contact.
The most important part of my day, however, is my walk in the valley: my Facebook friends are familiar with my posts of photos from the Don Valley Beechwood Trails, which are a seven-minute walk from my home in Toronto.
This well-maintained city trail system winds along reclaimed lands next to the Don River, and is home to all manner of wildlife. I’ve seen birds (from the common robin to belted kingfishers, red-tailed hawks, and crowned night herons), deer, raccoons, turtles, frogs and toads, snakes, chipmunks — the list is almost endless.
There is ample evidence that regular walks in nature go a long way to reducing stress, increasing attention span, and just generally promoting health and happiness.
Even on my most stressful, frustrating days, I’ve found that just closing my laptop, putting on my walking shoes, grabbing a water bottle and heading out to the trail for 45 minutes or so is the cure for what ails me. My body relaxes, the frustration drains away, and the “stress hamster” in my brain finally stops spinning and thinking of ways to smite that guy who keeps moving my deadline up…
So the next time you feel your muscles tensing and your teeth clenching, do yourself a favour: step away from your desk and go for a walk. Whether you head for a park, a leafy street you’ve never explored before, or just stroll around downtown for half an hour, your brain and your body will thank you.
The Atlantic: How a Walk in Nature Prevents Depression
New York Times: How Walking in Nature Changes the Brain