Why You Should Take a Walk with Yourself: The Importance of Reducing Your Stimuli

March 12, 2021

As a child, my eye was once caught by a book sitting on my mother’s nightstand titled Gluttony: The Seven Deadly Sins written by Francine Prose. I remember being drawn to it due to its cover’s hyperbolized doodle and striking orange backdrop. My mother explained to me that gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins because it induces greed, laziness, and hedonism. This became my first notion, as far as I can remember, of the dangers of overabundance.

We live in a world of excess. Too much social media. Too much news. Too much sugar. Too many prescription drugs. Too much stimuli. In an interview with Joe Rogan, Naval Ravikant, one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, explains that all our diseases are diseases of abundance, not diseases of scarcity. Back in hunter-gatherer culture, it would have been great to be briefly entertained by a piece of news, pick sugary fruit, or find a remedy to pain. But today, everything is programmed to be consumed in excess. Everything is carefully calculated to have addictive properties: the sites you scroll through, the aisles you shop in, the drugs you consume...

It’s become common knowledge, for instance, that products at Target are strategically placed to lure customers into buying more than they intend to. This “Target Effect” is transferable to most of our quotidian activities. The ‘Like’ button promotes an obsessive need for popularity. Product placements trick your subconscious into buying things you don’t need. The Coke you drink is a blend of chemicals carefully curated to contain addictive properties (including one that keeps you from throwing up from all the sugar…)

It seems that everything in our world is strategically placed to catch our eye, making our attention spans shorter.

“We are more constantly bombarded by unnatural stimuli. We need to put ourselves in places of decreased sensory input so we can hear the background signals of our psychological processes.”
– Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights (2020)

This is why it’s so important that every once in a while, you stop and reduce your stimuli. You delete social media for a few days. You resist the urge to turn on the news channel. You cut foods that are making you feel like crap. You take a walk with yourself – literally and figuratively.

There’s something about taking a walk that makes you see things in a whole new light. It forces you to notice the things you often overlook. It silences the voices inside your head until the truest, highest expression of your inner monologue is all that is left. It clears your mind and brings you back to Earth. It allows you to evaluate the person you’ve been acting like, and ask yourself whether this is who you really are (hint: it’s likely not).

Personally, I realized I didn’t want to be on my phone all the damn time, swallowed by the black hole of mindless scrolling. I was a procrastinator unclear of my aspirations towards becoming a full-time content creator, because I was too busy observing others reach theirs, convincing myself that it was okay because ‘I had to learn everything about social media and carefully curate all of my content before putting it out there.’ I realized I was being impatient and grumpy around my family because I was frustrated with my own lack of progress and taking it out on them. As a creator looking to step up their game, I was overstimulated by the viral TikTok’s and the cohesive Instagram grids and the beautifully designed blogs that all my favorite influencers have, rather than just creating all those things for myself. So, I took a walkabout.

“We all need a walkabout. We need to get alone. Put ourselves in places of decreased sensory input. We can hear ourselves again.” – Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights (2020)

Everyone has their own version of a walkabout. For me, it's meditating, writing, and quite literally taking a walk. For you, it might be going on a run, reading a good book, talking to an old friend, calling up your therapist, or listening to music (the kind of music that really makes you feel like yourself — and if you don’t know what that is then you’ll know when you hear it).

So, what’s a walkabout to you? What will it take for you to pull over and trek rather than get stuck in traffic? Whatever it is, make yourself do it today. Everything in our contemporary lives is always go, go, go, so don’t forget to, every once in a while, stop and smell the roses.

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