Last weekend I spent hiking in the mountains and enjoying the fresh air. The weather was sunny and beautiful and there were many people outside. They were hiking, riding bicycles, motorcycling, climbing the mountains, paragliding, fishing, riding cars for fun, jogging, picnicking…People were enjoying their leisure time.
‘We work,” Aristotle wrote, ”in order to have leisure.” Today, this is still true. There have always been breaks from the routine of work–taboo days, market days, public festivals, holy days–we could not survive without them. Leisure has historically been the privilege of the rich. Opportunities for leisure came with more income and less working hours. I noticed this change in Russia when at the turn of the century people started doing more outdoor activities and developed interesting hobbies.
We all need a break from our daily work, household chores and the routine. The recreational activities can work wonder! Scientists discovered that walking in nature causes brain growth in hippocampus region resulting in better memory. Evolutionists explain that a walk in nature sparks our spacial memory exactly the way it did when our ancestors went hunting! It gives our brain uninterrupted focus and helps memory consolidation.
Walking in nature has even more advantages! It brings back the silence in our lives! Being a musician, I realized how important silence is. We are constantly surrounded by various sounds and noise. Just think of air conditioning or refrigerator. When you are a musician, you are exposed to thousands of different sounds depending on instruments; some might be even very loud. We are listening to music, analyzing music, making music ourselves. Our ears are overflown by the acoustical information. Apparently shutting off the faculty of speech heightens the sensitivity. So we are regaining the quality of being sensitive to the sounds, which is of paramount importance for any musician! Through silence, our focus is being shifted to our thoughts, emotions, and sensations. Psychologists could prove that our empathy has limits and needs to get a fresh start too. If we are burdened by the daily problems, we lose the ability to perceive, interpret and process emotions, be it our own or somebody else’s. It gives us an explanation why many composers took long walks and searched for solitude and silence. It makes me think of Beethoven – a restless walker who would hike for hours just to end the day with a great idea of a new sonata. Nature retreats can be very inspirational: psychologist Kelly McGonigal says that during hiking we are able to cultivate a form of mindful intention. If we couple it with the refreshing effect, we can easily see why we are back to work full of energy and are fully motivated to take action.
Free time activities are the best creativity training we can get! Free time moments are perfect for incubation time and absorption time any new material or information needs. There is life outside of music! It is up to us to make the best out of it!