A Walk a Day to Keep Depression at Bay

Healing begins within. One can't pour from an empty cup. A journey starts with a single step... Alright already, you get it...

Today, I went for a walk. Big deal, right?

I’ve been staying indoors too much, and I’m realizing that’s a problem. I love my apartment. I love my solitude. I love to read, watch documentaries, cook (sometimes), make lists, binge Netflix, meditate, read some more, watch another doc… you catch my drift. I don’t stay home because I’m depressed, but I have found that if I stay home too long, I will become depressed. My previously welcomed solitude turns into reclusive isolation; into which, I will continue to sink.

I suppose this is a bit reversed from the way many people (if not most) experience depression. Typically, the onset of a depressive episode is due to a stressful circumstance(s) that triggers the condition. As someone who has struggled with depression intermittently for several years, this has typically been true of my depressive cycles. One of the deepest of which was sparked by the passing of treasured friend. The immense grief I experienced triggered an extended bout of depression. (This post isn’t about that time of my life. Just know that I eventually fought my way through that lengthy period of emptiness.)

I should add this as a disclaimer: I’m very fortunate that I have loving, supportive people in my life; I know not everyone is. However, that’s not the way through for me. When I’m in a “low tide,” I don’t want to reach out to others. I know as well as anyone that repressing your feelings is a recipe for disaster; that without acknowledging the feelings inside and giving them the air to breathe, like an infection they will continue to fester. There are a few, select people that I feel safe to bare my soul to- but even with them, not always and not EVERYthing. So I found that, for me, the way through is meditation and reading. Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chödrön, Gabby Bernstein, and Eckhart Tolle were my mentors. In the time since my friend’s passing, I’ve overcome the crippling depression and found my life’s purpose: cultivating connection among others (ironic, right?). Through my newfound spiritual practices and perspective, I’ve managed to stay out of the abyss.

Back to the present.

Staying out of the abyss doesn’t mean that I haven’t skirted the edges. Just as we can expect the seasons to change four times a year, we can also expect our mental states to rise and fall. Our mental, emotional, and spiritual agility is gauged by our ability to “ride the waves.” Most recently I’ve found that my low tides are triggered when I feel my time is not valued by any singular or combined effort of client, friend, employer, romantic partner or even FedEx delivery driver. Not even joking about that last one.

By New Years Eve, I had not left my haven in two full days. I was actually planning to go out that night. I generally don’t like to go out for NYE, but I’d been feeling really secure with myself and like it might actually be fun to ring in the year with one close friend and about a million randos. But that morning, a “missed” delivery attempt (more like “fake,” but don’t get me started) sent me down the rabbit hole. It feels so silly to say that a delivery failure was my unraveling, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was so triggered by this event as a further sign that my time is not valuable that I broke down crying. Suffice it to say, I didn’t leave my apartment that day. I didn’t even stay up until midnight. I didn’t do my NYE ritual of writing my reflections and goals and I didn’t watch “When Harry Met Sally.” When I went to bed, I had to turn up the volume on my white noise app to drown out the lively and joyous sounds coming from my neighbors’ apartments (literally EVERYONE on my floor decided to host a party this year; gah!).

When I woke up on January 1st, I made a conscious choice to see it as a new day. I put my shoes on, drank a bottle of water, and went outside. I got coffee at the adorable café around the corner that I’d not patronized practically since I moved to the neighborhood four years ago. Coffee in hand, I started to walk. Living in NYC, it’s a rarity to walk the streets without all the noise and tension of commuters, cars, or kids going to school. Holidays are sublime. The streets are unusually quiet and there is no subconscious pressure to keep up with anyone else. So I strolled. I inhaled fresh air, I looked at the shops, and I actually SAW whatever I looked at. Without the stress of a timeline I had the freedom to walk for as long as I wanted and actually enjoy it, which I did. I saw my neighborhood, my city, my life with fresh awareness and awe. I smiled at and exchanged wishes of “Good Morning” and “Happy New Year” with those I passed. I experienced connection.

By the time I reached home, I was starving. But more than that, I was motivated and inspired. I sat down and wrote my reflections and goals, which continued to fuel me for the Bikram class I’d (thankfully) had the foresight to book in advance. I knew this was how I wanted to start my year, but had I left the reservation until just before, I would have talked myself out of it. I even prepped dinner in the crockpot so that it would be ready when I got home. I went to Bikram with my favorite instructor and left with my spirit full. And then I ate.

Living in a city where walking is the primary mode of transportation, going for a walk is not only mundane, but required. But for me, walking has come to represent my self-awareness in any given moment; my discovery of new sights yet unseen; my inspiration and motivation for the day ahead; my gratitude for my physical ability to walk, to hear the birds, to see smiles on (some of) the strangers’ faces with whom I engage; to allow life to surprise and delight me; to experience connection.

Fast forward... January 15, 2020. Today, I went for a walk.

I have walked every morning since January 1st. On my third morning of leisurely strolls, I decided to document this habit with a daily photo from my walks. I want to make it a “thing,” mainly to hold myself accountable to my self-made commitment to get out of the house every day. I’ll be seeking Beauty and will try to take photos of sights or moments that capture my attention. Some days I might not be inspired; some days I might only walk around the block and it will just be a photo of my face outside so that y’all know I got my walk in. It's not going to be perfect, but "perfect" isn't the point. I'm getting outside. I'm prevailing over the abyss.

If this idea brings Joy to others who want to follow (and also hold me accountable 🙃), that’s a bonus. If what I’ve shared resonates with you, I welcome you to follow my dedicated Instagram (@walking_for_wellness). Since I'm late to this blog party (hey, I started a blog!), here are the photos from the last 15 days. The second photo was taken right after I had this idea.

Thank you for being here. I hope that for those of you who also struggle with depression (or anxiety or BPD or any other form of mental anguish), that you have the support you need.

Love and hugs.

#mentalhealth #depression #selfcare #walk #connect #heal #thrive #Beauty #Joy #breathe #gratitude #walkwithme #progressnotperfection #awareness #bepresent #brooklyn #newyork #wellness #getoutside #HumanKindIntegrativeWellness

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