I have often told the story of how I got lost during my midlife and this became the genesis of my establishing Life Again. It’s about the things I could have been doing or should have been doing during those times in my life when I was under most pressure. Often this is pressure that comes with the territory – no longer young and carefree, kids and education, money needs, bigger house, relationship pressures, work strains, time limits – we become totally lost. We develop bad habits as we become totally enmeshed in the complexity of it all. Fat, frustrated and fearful, we can end up in a downward spiral which seems to have no end. Instead of taking steps to break the spiral step by step, we burrow further into the mire. We work harder, exercise less, comfort ourselves with alcohol, cigarettes and possibly drugs, all the time hoping that time or some miracle will present itself and turn everything around. My advise? It won’t. Even winning Lotto may not help!
For me it became taking the first step towards making changes – literally. I decided one day that I would take a walk at lunchtime. I arrived at work that day in my ever-growing funk and cursing the day ahead. It was a gorgeous spring morning and I knew I was going to see very little of this glorious day – the computer, the desk, the problems, the people – all loomed large. I couldn’t walk away from it all as I had mouths to feed, bills to pay, mortgage to meet, expectations to reach. My stretched ego was still hanging in there even though I didn’t realise that no one else could give a tinker’s damn about it. It was a first world problem and I was stuck in something of my own making.
I couldn’t walk away from it all as I had mouths to feed, bills to pay, mortgage to meet, expectations to reach.
Lunchtimes had been becoming less formal – let’s face it, they had been becoming less. Stop. I might have grabbed a sandwich or apple and stayed at my desk, cleaning up stuff on my computer that could have been cleared up later – or completely deleted. Without really noticing it, my moods and emotions were on a downward descent. It was an ugly graph which was becoming uglier by the day.
At the appointed hour of noon I stepped out, bought a sandwich before the rush, and headed to a park about ten minutes away. My phone was in the office. Social media wasn’t as invasive as it is today but even then you could be swamped with calls and texts, mostly to solve problems or put out fires. None of them to thank you! I left all of that behind.
I stepped out, bought a sandwich before the rush, and headed to a park.
The park had a bench and some specks of filtered shade which beckoned me. I was feeling guilty about wasted time but I was also feeling called to this new place. It was decision I have never regretted. I sat down, slowly ate my sandwich rather than scoffing it which I was prone to do, and just allowed the slight breeze to waft across my face and through the few tufts of hair I had remaining. It was meditative and reflective despite being in the inner heart of Melbourne. I felt refreshed and calmer. My office felt like a place I could go back to.
Back at my desk I realised that for most workers – including their leaders – lunch hour is shrinking, as we are driven by office culture, technology, and our own urge to overachieve. Often it is management driving the culture, assuming that better results will flow. They need to be acquainted with the latest science.
I started to take this break at least 3 times a week – old habits die hard – and started to do my own search on what the figures might show us. Typically I had been the standard driven man who assumed that health might only be achieved by pushing myself to personal bests in running times or weights lifted before the perfunctory breakfast and marital kiss before the rush out the door!
I discovered the lunchtime walk had huge benefits beyond those I felt on the first day.
I discovered the lunchtime walk had huge benefits beyond those I felt on the first day. You don’t even have to strip down to shorts or wear lycra! What bliss.
How’s this sound?
- You can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by walking regularly;
- A brisk walk boosts circulation, increase oxygen to the cells, and gives energy and healthier skin;
- It significantly reduces sick days, maybe up to 30% depending on how often and how much;
- It’s great for Vitamin D by getting us outside. Think of the benefit for your bones;
- It reduces stress, anxiety and fatigue. It is a natural antidepressant;
- You are more enthusiastic, less tense, more relaxed and less likely to fall asleep in the afternoon.
One of my great friends is a busy man with a huge private business with massive demands. Most days when he is not required at a corporate lunch, he heads off to the park with his food pack and a novel. He just totally disappears, physically and emotionally. He takes himself into another world for a time and can’t be found. He has done this for years and still appears to be remarkably young. That’s another benefit. No plastic surgery required. I recommend it.