I first realized I needed to make a change in my life while I was waiting for my ice cream to soften in the microwave. I know many people will have feelings about that — but this isn’t about my habit of microwaving ice cream. This story is about the fact that, while I was waiting 15 seconds for the microwave to ding, I found myself scrolling mindlessly through Instagram, barely even noticing the photos as I thumbed past. I realized what I was doing, and had to ask myself a question. Is my mind that restless that I can’t even sit here for 15 seconds without any kind of stimulation?

I had been feeling this way frequently, like I had lost control of my own mind and was operating on autopilot. I knew I needed to find a way to clear my head, step away from technology, and give myself time to think. That was when I decided I wanted to try going on walks in the morning.

If someone else was telling this story, the next line would probably be about them waking up early the very next day and to go on their first walk. But this is my story and I’m not going to lie, I was in a slump and slept in. I felt bad about myself that day, though, so the next morning, I got out of bed at 6:58 a.m. I made some coffee and poured it into a thermos, then slid on my Uggs and walked out the door.

The moment I stepped outside into the cold air, I felt more awake. The air smelled like rain from the night before, and the houses on my street still had their porch lights on. I walked in a loop around my block, and although that first walk was short, it was exactly what I needed to feel more refreshed. I felt lighter the rest of the day. It’s as if that first push to get out of bed and go outside produced a domino effect that made me more motivated throughout the day.

I kept taking walks, morning after morning. Being out so early, with no distractions, I noticed things in my own neighborhood that I had never paid attention to before. I learned that the lady on the corner is obsessed with maintaining her lawn — I saw her on the ground one day, trimming the edges with scissors. I noticed the four-foot-tall Statue of David on my neighbor’s lawn, and how freaking bizarre it looks in our suburban cookie cutter neighborhood with chain link fences. And a week later, I noticed that my neighbor had put a pair of shorts on the statue, probably due to nudity complaints from one of the Karens on the street.

Almost immediately, I saw improvements in my focus, productivity, energy, and even self-esteem.

With each morning walk came a sense of rejuvenation. It got easier and easier to pull myself out of bed as I planned out new routes to take. There’s such a healing factor that comes with solitude, especially in the earlier hours of the day when there are no pressures, nothing expected of me. I could just be an observer. Outside, I have all the space in the world to clear my head and gather all the good energy I need to get through the day. Almost immediately, I saw improvements in my focus, productivity, energy, and even self-esteem. I was proud of myself each time I came back from a walk, knowing that I had started my day the right way.

It became clear to me last week that I had made improvements, when I was making microwave popcorn. As the timer ran for three minutes, I didn’t even think to pull out my phone. My mind didn’t feel restless at all, and I had officially switched out of autopilot.

I know there are plenty of others like me who have been feeling restless, especially since we’ve been staying at home more. It’s easy to stay holed up with Dawson’s Creek binges and work Zoom calls, especially now that it’s getting colder in lots of places. But I challenge anyone who’s been in a slump to go on just one morning walk. I promise, one walk is all you’ll need to get yourself rejuvenated, and hopefully you’ll make a routine of it.

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