Walking back from the carnage
I was talking about walking and hiking with some friends, today. It all started with the fact that a newspaper published an article claiming “walking is for the middle aged, hiking is cool”.
As I never had a problem with being uncool, and indeed I was not cool back when not being cool was not considered cool yet, I accept my role as a walker, and said as much.
From there we went on talking about how walking (or hiking, if you’re cool) is an excellent way for coping with trauma.
I walked miles and miles after my mother’s death, and after my father.
I find walking a good solution to recharge my batteries, and react to those periodic bouts of depression that sometimes come.
And there’s science behind it!
There are studies that seem to confirm that the rhythmic exchange between brain hemispheres that happen when we are walking works somehow as a mechanism that takes the edge off trauma, and allows us to negotiate the disaster, handle the pain.
Incidentally, the same happens when juggling or playing a musical instrument.
The theory – that I found in a nice little booklet called Walking Your Blues Away – connects the brain activity and our neuro-chemistry with walking and our evolution as a species.
Back in the days of the caveman, it would happen that you went out for a bit of hunting-gathering, and something tragic happened: your brother was eaten by a sabretooth tiger, or was bitten by a venomous snake, or fell down a ravine.
Trauma was commonplace, humans being pretty frail, all things considered. At this point, natural selection favored those that were able to metabolize the trauma as they walked back to the cave. Because failing to cope with the trauma might mean you would not make it back to the cave at all.
I like this theory, because it makes sense, it fits the observations and builds a bridge between us, trapped in our stressful everyday routine, and our ancestors – whose routines were quite different, but equally stressful.
And it works, at least for me.
And while I believe that the first thing to do in case of signs of depression is seeking professional help – because depression is an evil customer – it’s also nice to have a quick-and-ready method to keep those bad moods at bay.
And plain old walking’s not uncool, anyway.