I’m going to let you in on a little secret I’ve discovered over the past few months. It’s one of my very best and most effective problem-solving strategies, and it’s so easy that anyone can start implementing it right away. It’s to go for a walk. I’m serious. Stay with me here, and I’ll explain.

 

We all have times when we are stuck on a problem. We know there’s a solution out there (or at least we hope there is), but we can’t see it. We feel stuck and sitting at the desk trying to force it to reveal itself doesn’t do much good. Sure, we can try harder, think deeper, and keep working away. Sometimes that approach works, but more often than not, the perfect solution doesn’t appear until sometime later when we’ve moved on to something else or gone home for the day.

A much more effective strategy in those situations is to get up, walk away from your desk, and ideally head outside for a short walk. There are a couple of reasons why this is so helpful.

Going for a walk helps you release a lot of the tension you’re holding when you’re in a stressful situation. Spending long hours at your desk isn’t good for anyone, and your body will benefit from the extra exercise. It also gets your blood moving, which helps the brain. Also, the fresh air when you go for a walk outside helps clear your head and allows you to absorb more energy. In short, your brain will start to function better simply because you are getting more oxygenated blood into those cells.

But there’s something deeper at work here as well. You see, there are two different ways we “think.” The first is on the conscious level. That’s you sitting there, actively trying to work out a problem. The second is working the problem out subconsciously. It’s the kind of thinking and “brain processing” that you’re not usually aware of until you have a sudden thought that just happens to be the perfect solution to the problem.

Those light bulb moments don’t happen out of the blue. Instead, our minds have been hard at work subconsciously and then move the idea into the conscious mind when it's fully fleshed out.

Walking encourages this subconscious thinking. While you’re out walking, enjoying the sunshine on your face, the birds in the trees, and the lovely flowers all around you, your subconscious mind is taking over the work on your unsolved problem.

By the time you get back to your desk, don’t be surprised if you have some new insights and ideas that get you closer to solving the issue. Give it a try by going for a walk the next time you feel stuck or can’t figure something out.