Winter is a time of short days.  With the darkness comes quiet, and an opportunity to look inside yourself.  Use this time for introspection, but do not fall prey to the sometimes-depressing qualities of winter.  Life is not just about getting by, it is about taking charge and living every moment to its fullest.  Embrace this season by gearing up with warm clothes and head outside to embrace the cool refreshing air.  Rather than scurrying from house to car to office; stand up tall, face the sun, and breathe your deepest warmest breath.

How often do you stop to take time for yourself?  Do you have a few minutes each day to ask yourself what your needs are? Do you sometimes feel frustrated at work, but do not have time or energy to sort out the issues in your head?  How are you feeling about your workplace these days?

I recommend a purposeful meaningful walk to address some inner thoughts.  If you can make this happen every day for just 10 minutes, you will begin to feel a sense of clarity.  If you choose to walk alone, then ask yourself to follow these three simple steps.

  1. Take the first few minutes of your walk as a mindfulness exercise. Check in, focus on your breath, and just notice the thoughts and feelings swimming around inside of you.
  2. Next, decide what your goals are for your walk. Do you want to problem solve a specific situation?  Or do you want to just relax and focus on the environment, so that you can return clear headed.
  3. Upon your return take a moment to again notice your thoughts, and make a conscious choice to decide how you want the rest of your day to go. Do you want to be proactive, or simply react to each encounter?

If you are Netwalking with a friend or in a small group, also set your intention along with your partner’s.  How do you want to spend the next 10-15 minutes?  Will you be venting and accumulating feelings of negativity?  Or would you like to have a constructive conversation, or simply a break by talking about the nature and neighborhood around you?

To really improve your mood and that of your fellow walking partners, consider a winning combination of walking, smiling, laughing, and playing.  Ask supervisors to encourage Netwalking meetings that include fun warm-ups such as these:

  1. Start a rhyming game where each participant takes a turn saying a line.
  2. Oldies but goodies: Follow the leader, I spy, Geography, or 20 questions.
  3. A scavenger hunt. This can be planned ahead of time and can encourage walkers to interact with neighbors and community businesses.
  4. Live Simon. Assign a sound to every time you see something, and the group makes that sound. Pick 4-5 things to look for.  For example, if you’re in the city, every time you see a coffee shop you say “café olé!” And every time you see a newspaper stand you say “Extra Extra”.  Pretty soon you will have a chorus (or cacophony) of sounds!

Not only does walking clear your head and give you a break, but walking helps improve your mood.  When you move, you increase blood and energy flow to the brain and feel energized.  Being outside with even a bit of sunlight, you are exposed to vitamin D (which enhances mood). When exercising the brain’s nerve cells connections more easily, and act as a temporary antidepressant.

Other benefits of Netwalking breaks at work include:

  • An improved focus on your goals and values.
  • Increased productivity and efficiency.
  • Fewer mistakes that are caused by distractibility.
  • Improved relationships with your coworkers.

Winter time can allow you to focus on your senses.  Inhale the cold air, and feel the warm breath of your exhale, feel the sunshine, and maybe even a few snowflakes or raindrops.  Outdoor activities are refreshing, short walks are peaceful, and you deserve some time to nurture yourself.

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About the Author:
Jennifer Udler, LCSW-C is a clinical social worker who has a private psychotherapy practice where she meets her clients outdoors. She provides individual therapy while walking on a path in one of the Washington, DC area’s beautiful parks. She uses mindfulness-based exercises (facilitated by the natural surroundings) and cognitive behavioral therapy to help clients achieve their personal goals. With over 17 years of experience providing individual therapy, she is adept at working with teens, and adults with a range of needs. Learn more about Jennifer here PositiveStridesTherapy.com.