If You Want More Ideas, Get a Dog

Like many families during the early days of lockdown, we got a dog — Stan. At the time, my youngest daughter was living at home and my wife, a teacher, was holding virtual classes in the kitchen. There were plenty of people to look after him.

Since September I’ve been left in charge of Stan. I’m now the only one working from home. My daughter’s returned to university and my wife’s back at school. I’ve been elevated to the role of primary dog walker so I take him out twice a day.

Since then, two things have happened. Firstly, my step count has increased dramatically. I now average 6 miles of walking a day. More at weekends. According to my Garmin, November was a record month. Secondly my creative output has increased significantly.

During my daily walks around Tooting Common my head fills with new ideas. Ideas for my business, ideas that solve client problems and thoughts on how to improve my life. I now take post it notes with me (alongside the dog treats) to make sure I write them down. And it continues all morning. I’ve now filled several ideas books.

The link between regular walking and creative output is well known. Aristotle was famous for walking and teaching. He founded the peripatetic school of philosophy. Steve Jobs regularly held walking meetings and was known for wandering around the Apple campus, often barefoot. I even know someone who coaches people whilst they walk. So how does walking help you come up with new ideas?

1 Increased Oxygen and Blood Circulation

There’s a physical dimension. The act of walking activates the brain. As your brain is stimulated you’re able to make fresh new connections, the essence of creativity.

2 Mood Enhancement

There’s an emotional dimension. Fresh air, nature and a friendly companion makes you feel happier and more relaxed. It’s in this low stress state of mind where great ideas come to you. It’s impossible to be creative if you’re stressed and anxious.

3 Fresh Stimulus

Our brains need stimulation. Whilst walking, we experience new sights, sounds and smells. There’s chance encounters. You witness events. It all acts as brain food. These can provide a catalyst or a missing link to something you’ve been mulling over. That’s why it’s important to keep changing your walking route, so you get fresh stimulus.

4 It’s Low Effort

Unlike other physical activities walking doesn’t require deep concentration. As long as you don’t walk for too long or choose a challenging route, it isn’t physically demanding. It means your mind is free to wander. Often it’s during the walk that you get a eureka moment, a sudden realisation or a breakthough thought.

So to summarise

In this locked down world, take the time to get walking. Your creative output will increase massively. You won’t come up with new ideas by sitting at home all day. Get your walking boots ready, protect yourself from the elements and step outside the front door. It’s easy. For extra motivation, get a dog.

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