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Famous philosophers back to Aristotle have extolled the virtues of walking to stimulate creativity, mental clarity, happiness, focus, and fresh perspective. Turns out this ancient practice could benefit your investment portfolio as well.
Great Philosophers on Walking
“We must go for walks out of doors, so that the mind can be strengthened and invigorated by a clear sky and plenty of fresh air." -- Seneca, On the Tranqility of Mind
“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness; I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.” -- Søren Kierkegaard, in a letter to his sister
“Life consists with wildness. The most alive is the wildest. Not yet subdued to man, its presence refreshes him.” -- Henry David Thoreau, Walking
Science Supports "Forest Bathing"
The benefits of regular walking aren't just for philosophers and writers. Medical researchers in Japan have now proven many psychological and physical benefits by studying a concept they call "forest bathing". Forest bathing involves slowly walking through a forest, taking in the atmosphere through all your senses, and enjoying the benefits that come from such an excursion.
Among their findings:
- After years of careful study, Li has found that spending time in a forest can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and anger; strengthen the immune system; improve cardiovascular and metabolic health; and boost overall well-being.
- The health secrets of trees seem to lie in two things—the higher concentration of oxygen that exists in a forest, as compared to an urban setting, and the presence of plant chemicals called phytoncides—natural oils that are part of a plant’s defense system against bacteria, insects, and fungi. Exposure to these substances, says Li, can have measurable health benefits for humans. Physiological stress is reduced, for example, and both blood pressure and heart rate are lowered. Evergreens—pine, cedar, spruce, and conifers—are the largest producers of phytoncides, so walking in an evergreen forest seems to have the greatest health benefits.
How Can Investors Benefit From Walking?
Our modern society bombards us with investing information, some of it useful, much of it harmful. Our over-connected world allows little time for perspective and reflection, constantly encouraging us to "do something" with our portfolio. Oftentimes with investing the best advice is to do nothing.
The "walking investor" receives these important benefits:
- Quiet. A walk in the woods gives investors the opportunity to step away from the noise, opening up time to plan with a clear head. We can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from developing a real, written plan for a secure retirement. Once built, we can take pride in knowing we are consistently acting in accordance with that plan to achieve our long term goals. Knowing where we are going provides a tremendous calm, even when the world around us remains unsettled.
- Perspective. With peace comes the opportunity to gain perspective on why we invest. Let's face it, investing is a future-focused undertaking. It explicitly asks us to delay the instant gratification that comes from spending, choosing instead to save for a prosperous future even when we are no longer earning a salary. In making this current sacrifice we gain the freedom to:
- maintain a dignified lifestyle well beyond the end of our working years
- finance the education of children and grandchildren
- provide for a spouse or partner who outlives us
- support places and causes that have shaped us such as educational institutions, houses of worship, medical research, etc.
- Wisdom. No longer worried about what our future will look like, we can better see the timeless wisdom that will carry us to investment success:
- There is no free lunch; the rewards of investing are inseparable from the risks.
- While stocks are volatile day to day, investing risk fades away with time. There has never been a 15 year period in which stocks lost money.
- Your sister-in-law isn't an investing guru just because she tells you she made some money on Bitcoin; she simply rolled the dice and got lucky at the casino (this time).
- The Five Words of Wisdom in investing are "It's NEVER different this time."
Advice for the Walking Investor
Maybe it's the age 50 milestone in my life, but I have rededicated myself to regular outdoor walking and running in the past year. We're blessed to have access to dense woods and a roaring creek, which allows for easy "forest bathing" as the Japanese call it.
Some things I've learned along the way:
- Just go walk. One foot in front of the other. You'll notice the benefits quickly and will soon come to crave it. I started running (for my health) and walking (mostly for the dogs) and it seemed hard to find the time. Now I schedule my days around these activities. I feel incomplete on days I don't run and walk.
- Go early. It's nice being one of the first people to see the sun. You get to enjoy that peace and clarity the rest of the day.
- What should you think about when walking? Sometimes something, sometimes nothing at all. You get the benefits either way.
- Sometimes I take a problem with me into the woods; I might leave it there, or I might come back with new a perspective. Either way, I win.
- I find my run is easier the less I think about running.
- I might run with earbuds and rock music, but I never walk with them. I wouldn't be able to immerse myself in the sights, smells and sounds of the woods.
- I only walk in the woods; sidewalks are boring and rigid. People and cars can be distracting.
Become a Walking Investor With Oxford
When we build retiree portfolios at Oxford, we seek a balance between Stability and Growth following the principles outlined in our proprietary Power of 5 Investing system. Our goal is to help clients achieve inflation-beating growth in their wealth, while managing through market downturns. Our system has been battle tested in 25+ years of market ups and downs and is ready to tackle inflation.
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