Last week, I mentioned I've recently taken up walking. I've been walking 4 to 14 miles a day, every day, in two or three parts. I've walked in the morning, I've walked at sunset, and I've walked in the evening and at night.
First, it was all fun. I got to talk with myself (or with the universe). I verbalized all kinds of messy ideas and thought patterns and the process cleared my head nicely. I also got loads of fresh air, cortisol lowering exercise, and generally some me time. In my head, I became a person who walks; a walker. (Although probably not the same way Bill Bryson talks about it in his book, A Walk in the Woods.)
Then the topics ran dry. I found myself conversing about the same things, over and over again, as if whatever was happening that day wasn't interesting enough to analyze during my walks. I kept returning to old stuff, the stuff I was supposed to have had analyzed and conversed through already before.
And somewhere in there, down the path, being alone with my recurring thoughts became destructive.
My ability to see meaning in life started to weaken. Initially I associated the decrease in my mood with Stoner, the (rather deep) novel by John Williams that I was reading at the time. After all, both the commence of my increased walking and the commence of my reading the book coincided. But then my partner noted that perhaps it wasn't healthy to spend so much time with one's thoughts, and I decided to cut back the walking to 10K a day - while still reading the novel.
And I realized that Stoner wasn't the thing causing my weird mood. It was the walking, or the amount of time spend alone with my thoughts, with no external output, that the walking made possible and likely. I noticed a sudden rise in my mental levels. I felt joy and meaning again.
Don't get me wrong - I like walking. In the beginning I even felt a little addicted to it. Then again, perhaps all addictions are unhealthy.
Every excess causes a defect, every defect an excess.