Take A Mindfulness Walk
by Sally Whitaker
Studies show that being mindful of the world around you can help calm the mind, improve focus, and create an overall feeling of content. Instead of looking at the big picture, a mindfulness practice encourages taking a pause and focusing on the moment and surroundings you are currently in.
Research by Craig Anderson, post doctoral scholar at UC San Francisco, has found that getting outdoors and savoring the moment has fascinating results. In one study that included adult veterans and youth that had experienced trauma, they went white water rafting and were encouraged to live in the moment and pay attention to all of the details around them.
After the rafting, researchers found a nearly 30 percent decrease in the PTSD symptoms in the adults, and also the youth. Their stress went down, their happiness went up, and they felt more connected to the people around them.
So, how can you practice this in your daily life? Head outside for a mindfulness walk! It does not matter if it is in a more natural setting, like a wooded trail or park, or if it is just a quick walk around a suburban block. You will be able to find plenty to soak in regardless of the setting.
Here’s how: Turn off your phone. Seriously.
The best option is to leave it behind, but if you like it for safety reasons, make sure it is on silent.
Take a deep breath. This will help you become more centered and focused on the present moment. Try to clear your mind of stresses, annoyances, to-do lists, or anything not pertaining to the present moment. Allow those thoughts to take a back seat. It is hard, but it will become a bit easier as you focus on what is around you during the walk.
Begin your walk, and as you walk, become aware of what is around you. What do you see? Feel? Smell? Hear?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to get started:
What is the weather like? Can you feel a breeze? If there are clouds, what color are they? Are they moving fast or slow? What sounds do you hear? Cars driving by? A dog barking? Leaves rustling in the breeze? What can you smell? Cut grass? Car exhaust? Food being grilled?
All of these will change as you continue on your walk. You may find your mind start to wander, and that is okay; just shift your awareness back to the present moment as often as you can.
The above questions are just a starting point. As you walk you will find your own points to focus on, maybe how warm or cool the air feels, whether the ground is flat or bumpy...the possibilities are endless.
Taking a mindfulness walk is something anyone can do, it’s great during a work break or to start or end your day. Whether it is around the block or a four mile hike, you should feel calmer, happier and more focused upon your return.
You should consult your physician or other health care professional before starting this or any other fitness program to determine if it is right for your needs. Do not start this fitness program if your physician or health care provider advises against it. If you experience faintness, dizziness, pain or shortness of breath at any time while exercising you should stop immediately.
Sally Whitaker is a Pilates and Yoga instructor with 15 years of experience teaching group classes and private clientele, primarily in Independence, MO. During the summer months you can find her teaching Sunset Yoga at Armstrong Park in Grain Valley.