I’ve had this experience so many times that it can’t be coincidence. I have my best ideas when I go on vacation…but only if I leave town. “Staycations” don’t work.

Recently, when I was writing my Depression Survival Guide, I remembered that one of the most effective methods I ever used to survive depression was to get outside and walk. Now I wasn’t walking for my health. I didn’t own a car so I was trying to get somewhere, which meant I was walking quickly.

And then today I was reading “The Brain that Changes Itself”, by Norman Doidge. He was talking about the conditions under which mice grow neurons in their brain. And he explained that mice grow more neurons when they run on their little treadmill. But, apparently, the mice aren’t actually running. They are walking briskly.

It seems that something similar happens in humans. We, apparently, grow more new neurons when walking briskly than we do when walking at a slow pace. What is the explanation? Well now we’ve wandered into pure speculation. But Doidge speculates that thousands of years ago, if humans were walking briskly, it meant that we were entering new territory. And that meant that we needed to be more alert, and more ready to learn.

Fascinating. Is this the reason why my best ideas come while on vacation, but only if I leave town?

There is a passage in the book “Anna Karenina”, by Leo Tolstoy, that stuck with me more profoundly than almost anything else I’ve ever read. One of the characters is concerned that his wife might be cheating on him. In the dining room, he decides he must confront her about it. But then he enters the drawing room and asks himself, what exactly will he confront her with? Then he enters the bedroom and concludes that nothing really happened. But then he walks back into the drawing room and thinks, something must have happened. So he walks into the dining room and decides he must confront his wife. Then he walks back into the drawing room and thinks, confront her about what?

And he keeps going back and forth, back and forth, physically and mentally. He keeps having the exact same thoughts in the exact same rooms as he paces about. His body and his mind go in circles, and he never arrives anywhere new.

Who knows? Maybe he should have simply left town for a bit. (Walking. At a brisk pace.)

One of my favorite quotes that I wrote is pretty simple: “If you want to leave, that’s a good enough reason to leave.” I now think that message applies to more than I had originally imagined.

If you feel stuck, leave. Physically. Go somewhere new. What you find will surprise you, and you may even realize that it’s what you were looking for all along.