What’s common between Rabindranath Tagore and therapist Sonali Gupta?
Well, both of them swear by Ekla Chalo Re, or walking alone!
But while Tagore saab pushed it for social/political change, therapist Sonali Gupta recommends it for a much humbler reason: a mood change. But Sonali doesn’t just verbally advocate it by the way - she also walks the talk, quite literally.
‘Been Walking For 23 Years: My Night Walks Are a Closure Ritual’
Sonali has been walking daily since the age of 15. She is 38 now. Which means she has a fair bit of experience in walking -23 years to be precise! But while as a kid, her mother would accompany her as she walked on the terrace, as an adult, she prefers going on 30-45 minute long walks, alone.
"I usually do solitary walks at night. Almost like the end to the day...so it’s like a closure ritual (for) all those thoughts which I have in my head" - Sonali Gupta, Therapist
Often times, the daily kachra (garbage) of negativity still remains stuck in our heads. Night walking, then, can be likened to a jhaadu (broom), that makes the mind cleaner for the next day.
Sonali believes that a lot of negative things that happen in the day get physically stuck in the body. And so, just like sweat, emotions too need to be relieved from it. “For me, walking was a ritual to be able to deal with that,” says Sonali.
Perhaps that explains why every time my sister and I would fight in our childhood, she would storm out of the house for a walk. Walking, like for Sonali, was my sister’s brahmastra too. Meanwhile, I would just be sulking!
But besides a personal weapon for Sonali, she says, walking has been incredibly healing and a “massive stabilizing ritual”
" I have always felt that walking works best if there’s anxiety stuck in the body. If there’s any emotion that’s overwhelming, it works beautifully to find that centric." - Sonali Gupta, Therapist
But when she was recently confronted with an ankle injury, she suddenly could not go for her evening walks. What did she miss most when she couldn’t walk, I ask her?
“I felt that when I was doing it (walking), I would be a lot calmer,” she says. She temporarily switched to writing and journalling but her first love still remains walking.
She is not particularly thrilled about plugging headphones with sounds on blast, or the new fad- counting 10,000 steps while walking. “A lot of people I speak to in therapy or otherwise, they tell me that walks are most helpful when they are not using their phone. When they are choosing not to listen to music at that time. Or when they choose to not measure their steps. The idea is to enjoy yourself through the walk,” she says.
"What I am talking about is to be able to primarily be with yourself, without a podcast, without speaking to somebody. For me, yes, I use walking for fitness but I don’t use walking as a primary fitness tool. I use it more as an emotional tool. I always find that it helps me clear my mind. I exercise for my fitness. But walking for me is primarily a centering ritual and for me to clear my mind. I separate it there. " - Sonali Gupta(Don’t) Pour Some Sugar On Me
While Sonali swears by walking as a means to provide emotional strength, I also really like how walking takes us away from relying on sweets to tame our beastly moods.
"A pair of studies from the University of Exeter found that a 15-minute walk can curb cravings for chocolate and even reduce the amount of chocolate you eat in stressful situations." - Harvard Health Publishing
Because let’s be frank, the kilos gained thereafter do nothing to uplift the mood!
Also Read: Here’s How Walking Can Help You Lose Weight
Walking: It Also Makes You Smarter, Mister
A lot of guys might think of my earlier said reasons to walk as too unmacho. But perhaps they will change their mind after knowing that their guru Steve Jobs too loved walking and would often conduct his meetings in walks.
It wasn’t that he didn’t have a meeting room empty. It was because he was among many who believe that walking is actually great for the brain.
Recently neuroscientist Shane O’ Mara said in a Guardian article, “My notion – and we need to test this – is that the activation that occurs across the whole of the brain during problem-solving becomes much greater almost as an accident of walking demanding lots of neural resources.”
"One of the great overlooked superpowers we have is that, when we get up and walk, our senses are sharpened." - Shane O’ Mara, neuroscientist
But turns out, as desis we have always been champs at walking anyway. A 2005 census notes 80% of non-agriculture workers still walk to offices.
And to achieve this feat, chappals have long been our ally.
But whether it is chappals or shoes, turns out we do need to keep walking. Of course for utilitarian reasons, but for emotional reasons as well.
So the next time someone makes you feel sad, attack them with chappals! Aiyo, by going for a walk, and not by throwing it at them!
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