We are so busy as we work. Our minds and lives can be so full. Sometimes so full that we feel stressed, overwhelmed and rushed. We have no space to think clearly in order to develop the ideas needed to improve our work life. Perhaps meditation or mindfulness can help. But these practices may seem complicated and how often do we really have the time or energy for them?
However, we do have the time and ability to take a walk. Study after study shows the powerfully positive effect that walking has on our health and wellbeing. A walk also improves our thinking processes and creativity and allows us to connect with our environment. So, how can you turn an every day walk into a refreshing and nourishing micro-retreat?
Mindfulness can be as simple as being present and aware. There is a benefit in just breathing and walking and letting our thoughts, stresses and never ending stream of things to do, go. Here are some tips for making any ordinary walk into an act of mindfulness that will allow you to take a break and top up on calm and energy:
Take a walk
So first you’ll need to get outside and take a walk. It doesn’t need to be a long wander through nature (although this kind of immersion can be extra beneficial). It could be a lunchtime stroll in a park or even a couple of minutes mindful walking in your street, on your commute or wherever you happen to be. Green space can be a plus but any street will do. All you need is a little time and outdoor space.
Switch off your phone and take out your earphones. For this walk you’ll need to unplug and be present. Ideally you will also walk on your own.
Perhaps you are a high speed power walker or you use walking as your mode of travel. Speed will get you where you want to be faster and may get your heart going. To gain a mindful experience and unplug from your every day stresses, try slowing down. When you walk slower you can tune into your surroundings and notice what is around you as well as how you feel.
Focus on your breathing
Take note of how the air fills and leaves your lungs. Pay attention to two or three breaths as you walk. Being aware of your breathing will allow you to let go of your thoughts, slow down and feel more present.
Connect with your feet
As you walk, draw your attention to your feet. How do your feet feel? What do you feel beneath your feet? Be aware of the sounds and sensations.
Follow your feet
Once you have slowed down, allow your feet to take you where they wish. Don’t think about it too much. Just discover what appeals to you and move towards it. If you have time you will be able to go on a longer adventure but even just a few minutes gives time to take a minor detour and follow your feet. Enjoy a moment of freedom.
Often we focus on where we are walking or looking ahead. Try looking up and noticing the sky, trees or buildings. See how a different view changes your perspective.
Create a sound map
You may wish to stand still and close your eyes for this or walk slowly with your attention on the sounds around you. Make a map in your mind of the sounds around you. What can you hear in each direction around you? Are the sounds close by or far away? Are they sounds that you are making, sounds of nature, traffic or machinery?
Walking doesn’t just have to be a sensory experience of sight and sound. Reach out and touch something on your walk. Run your hand along a railing, touch a leaf, tree bark, a brick wall. Notice the texture, temperature and qualities of what you touch. Connect with something as you walk.
Notice the season
Being indoors with ambient temperatures and electric light means that we can lose touch with what is going on outside. Notice what you can about the season and weather around you as you walk. It can help to take yourself out of your mind and your every day by being aware of the time of the year and its impact on you.
Try these simple steps for a mindful walk experience whenever you have the chance. Adapt the walk to suit what works for you. Do share your experience by letting me know how you get on and what effect the walking has on your wellbeing.
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