To Think Better – Goof Off and Go For A Walk

Walking makes you think better and goofing off is good for you.

And no, I’m not being goofy.

Classical Greek philosophers understood well the benefit of a break.  Aristotle’s school of thought is called Peripatetic, which means “walking” or “given to walk about”, and members of his school were thought to do their best thinking walking about the Lyceum.

Plato and Aristotle walking and disputing. Raphael‘s The School of Athens (1509-1511)

A couple of thousand years later, Henry David Thoreau penned in his journal, “Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”

And just recently, a Stanford psychologist wrote an article for the Washington Post explaining why Spacing Out and Goofing Off is Good for You.  It included the following:

“By taking that fifteen-minute period for mindlessness or daydreaming, your attention has been broadened and your mind is now able to make more creative connections between ideas. This cannot happen when you stay overly focused on a problem.”

How, then, did we come to think that we need to rush to back-to-back meetings and make important decisions sitting around conference tables?

In the investment world, where everything seems to be made into a frenetic competition, I hear people brag about how early in the morning they can start a meeting, and about how many 30-minute, or even 15-minute, calendar entries they can cram into a day.

I could go on an on about the problems this competitive culture has wrought with other people’s money (for my thoughts on this click here and here).

Without walking further down this path though, remember that when you move around you circulate more blood and oxygen to both your muscles and your brain.

As I write this, I can already hear some of the marathon meeting people I mentioned above thinking:

“Increased circulation is good?”

“Great, let’s go for a hard, fast run and race.”

This might get you in good shape, or hurt you if you are older, but for clear thinking, research suggests that a slow, tranquil stroll is better.

As an example, a recent study showed that participants who ambled through an arboretum improved their performance on tests more than those who walked rapidly along city streets.

Yes, slow and steady wins, again.

I can’t do this subject full justice on this blog, so consider strolling through the following to learn more:

Why Spacing Out and Goofing Off is Good

Why Walking Helps Us Think

The Positive Effects of Walking on Thinking

Remember, Einstein said that “To stimulate creativity, one must develop the childlike inclination for play.”

During the week, Preston McSwain is a Managing Partner and Founder of Fiduciary Wealth Partners, an SEC registered investment advisor.

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