Monday, September 12, 2011


What a beautiful thing it is to get outside in the open air! It must be something natural, built up over millions of years, but you can't beat the feeling of wind against your skin, the sun on your face, and the body travelling across the landscape.

Psychologists often talk about ecological validity - the need to make sure that we assess thinking in the light of man's normal, natural surroundings. Well, what more ecologically valid than to re-experience the pleasure of walking along paths? What better use for 'working memory' than matching the careful movement of limbs to fallen trees and hanging branches? What better use for problem-solving skills than assessing which path to take across the countryside? What better use for perception than evaluating the shifting sounds and sights of a changing view?

Riding a bicycle recently, I was revisiting places from my past - the lake where I did so much thinking years ago; the woods where I played and laughed with the kids and friends; a house where a good friend had lived - although they had long gone, the memories drifted gently around the windows and doors; and, elsewhere, a house where I used to live, now let to others, but still with its character. Somehow, all these features on the landscape were happy things, the past integrated into the weathered flow of the present, and time expanding across the years as I moved along. Travelling encourages perspective, literally. Coming home, the sun sang against my skin, and home seemed somehow different, better, wider, freer.

It's the body's natural state to move itself effortfully among familiar and changing views, and to be outside often. So, next time someone suggests a walk or a bike ride, say yes!