Welcome to “How I Stay Sane,” a weekly column where real dads talk about the things they do for themselves that help them keep grounded in all the other areas of their life — especially the parenting part. It’s easy to feel strung-out as a parent, but the dads we feature all recognize that, unless they regularly take care of themselves, the parenting part of their life will get a lot harder. The benefits of having that one “thing” are enormous. Just ask Dr. Chirag Shah, a 42-year-old a co-founder of his own company. For the past four years, he’s been going on thrice-daily walks. Sometimes they’re 15 minutes long. Sometimes they’re 45.
I have two kids. One is six and the other is seven. I started walking regularly well after they were born, but before they came into my life, I did walk periodically. It just wasn’t a consistent routine.
After lunch, I was starting to feel really tired. As a way to counteract the effects of feeling so sleepy, I just decided to start walking. I found, as I did it more and more, that it was actually a very enjoyable, meditative way to bring some energy back into the afternoon. It’s persisted since. I’ll typically try to go on a walk at least two to three times a day. Some of these walks are about 45 minutes long.
It’s a way for me to practice a form of meditation: walking meditation. It allows me to check in with myself, be in the moment, practice deep breathing, and let my mind settle. I find that when I’m working on a problem or an issue, walking helps my mind to work through the problem without constantly trying to jam it into place, so to speak. Oftentimes, I’ll come back from my walk with a new thought or idea that is beneficial to a problem I was struggling with.
I’ve also found that there are very clear parenting benefits to the walks. Sometimes the act of walking helps me organize the family issues that we’re facing. It helps me think of them with a new and creative perspective. In general, too, walking reduces my stress levels. When I come home from a walk, I feel happier. I’m more energized to see my family.
Most of the time when I walk, it’s by myself. But occasionally, I do walking meetings at work. We’ve also made an effort to walk more as a family. Our kids have a lot of energy so they generally want to ride the scooters and bikes, but we certainly have walked to places and try to instill the benefits of doing so to them. I think that walks by myself are far more meditative, interpersonal growth-related. I’d say walks with my family are more about our bonding, having fun. Those walks are way less focused on my pure personal growth and more on our family growth, if that makes sense.
For me, going on a walk is about paying attention to the present moment. It’s about being in the walk, itself. It’s really a nice practice. Sure, it’s not in rugged nature, but it’s about the best thing that I can do right then. What can I do when I don’t focus on my problems, and focus on the act of walking? Usually, the answers or solutions come to me. I don’t spend as much time agonizing over the problem. I can focus on everything else.