Be happy. Go for a good walk.

“Happiness, like unhappiness, is a proactive choice.” – Stephen Covey.

Why are some people happier than others? Research has found that 40% of a person’s happiness comes from their choice to be happy, 50% comes from their actions and 10% is unaccounted for. The happiest people make the choice to be happy and they also proactively take steps to be happy.

Studies have shown that happy people exercise regularly, they get a good nights sleep, they cultivate good relationships, they get fresh air every day, they help others, they smile and they express gratitude regularly.

A ‘good walk’ is a simple idea anybody can use to help cultivate their own happiness. It doesn’t require any special equipment, it doesn’t cost anything to do, and it is based on the work of several scientific studies. This blog post explains how to take a ‘good walk’ as well as the science behind the idea.

STEP 1: TAKE A GOOD WALK

The first component of a ‘good walk’ is going outside and taking a walk. Walking outside provides fresh air, sunshine and exercise - all proven to make people happier. Walking is an activity that almost anyone can do without having to buy any equipment or take any classes.

The University of Sussex conducted research with 20,000 people in England and discovered that spending 20 minutes outside in good weather contributes the most to a person’s good mood. Exposure to sunlight releases a hormone called serotonin, which has been associated with boosting mood, and helping a person feel calm and focused.

Research published in the Journal of Health Psychology also showed that in a study of 400 people, exercising for just 7 minutes a day made them more relaxed, improved brainpower, and made them feel better about themselves.

Studies from both the University of Colorado and the University of Utah found that a 30 minute walk a day can reduce the symptoms of depression by 36%.

Scientists also know that exercising releases a chemical called endorphins. This reduces the perception of pain and triggers a positive feeling in the body similar to morphine.

In summary, the combination of sunlight and exercise when going for a walk outside will make you feel happier.

STEP 2: WITH GOOD PEOPLE

The next part of a ‘good walk’ is to have a companion when you go for your walk. Spending time with other people and maintaining good relationships has been shown by research at Harvard University to make people happier, feel more cared for, and live longer.

This is backed up by several other studies that all found experiencing positive emotions with someone else, giving and receiving support and having shared activities and experiences all contribute to a person’s happiness.

You become more like the people you spend the most time with. If you find positive, optimistic, happy, people to take a ‘good walk’ with, they will rub off on you and you will become more positive, more optimistic and happier. Positive people are more likely to accept your invitation for a good walk as well!

A ‘good walk is also a great activity to do as a family. Walking is an activity that people of all ages can do. Research has shown that children in families that spend time together get better grades in school, have fewer behavioral issues and are at a lower risk for substance abuse.

Not only can a ‘good walk’ make you personally happier but also it can help with the well being of the whole family. A 20 minute walk is enough to give the benefits of a 'good walk' and should be short enough for most children to be able to do. To make your ‘good walk’ more appealing to kids you could have a scavenger hunt along the way or plan your route so you end up somewhere fun at the end like a play park, a sports field, or even a snack place.

In short, the benefits of a ‘good walk’ are amplified by taking it with someone else.

STEP 3: DISCUSS GOOD THINGS

The final element of a ‘good walk’ is to discuss good things as you walk. Talk about something that made you smile. Talk about something you are grateful for. Talk about something you are excited about.

Talking about good things has been linked with a person’s happiness. Research at Michigan State University found that people who cultivated positive thoughts by focusing on good things were more engaged in their work and had better moods.

Studies have found that people who express gratitude on a regular basis have increased happiness, improved life satisfaction and decreased depressive symptoms.

The following questions are inspired by a technique called “appreciative inquiry” and are suggestions based on the research mentioned above. Appreciative inquiry is a method of focusing on what is going well to make things better. The questions should help stimulate “good talk on your good walk.

• "What is something that made you smile?"

• "What are you grateful for?"

• "What are you excited about?”


If you have kids on your ‘good walk’ get them to tell you:

• I had fun when…
• I am glad that…
• I am excited about…

Make a point to only talk about good things on your ‘good walk.’ Save moaning, complaining, whining or anything negative for another time.

In conclusion, talking about “good things” will help make you happier.

CONCLUSION

A ‘good walk’ is a simple idea that really can help you cultivate happiness in your life. It’s as easy as going for a good walk, with good people and discussing good things.

In addition to cultivating happiness, walking has many health benefits as well:

• Walking 2 hours a week can reduce the chance of a stroke by 30%.
• A 40-minute walk 3 times a week protects the area of the brain associated with memory.
• Walking 3500 steps a day reduces your chances of diabetes by 29%.
• A 1-hour daily walk can cut your risk of obesity in half.
• Walking 30 minutes most days drastically reduces the chance of heart disease.

Try and take a ‘good walk’ every day. If the weather isn’t conducive to walking outside, then walk inside with someone and talk about good things. If your schedule doesn’t align with a companion then go for a walk by yourself and think good thoughts to yourself.

Make your ‘good walk’ a habit. Put it on the calendar. Invite a friend. Set a reminder on your phone. Post an open invite on social media for your friends. Do it at lunchtime or after dinner every day. It’s worth the effort, a ‘good walk’ really will make you happier.

Learn more about a 'good walk' at my new website: www.goodwalk.net.