Our times of isolation and quarantine are starting to lift us finally off our couches and into the great outdoors! Just taking in some fresh air will do a person tremendous good. These walks are also great opportunities to practice mindfulness in very practical ways that support our mental health too.
I’ve guided countless walks with small groups of people who rarely have a chance to get outside. When we walk, I first give them some guidelines to help make their walk more meaningful.
Below are my tried and true tips, the 3 M’s, for a customized mindfulness practice as you to take yourself for a stroll.
Note: if you are not currently ambulatory you can focus on the physical rhythm of your breathing as you proceed in whatever way works for you.
- Be intentional about where your Mind is.
- You can decide to luxuriate in your wandering mind and let it go wherever you please. This can help your mind to relax, be creative, or problem solve in an unpressured state.
- Or you could decide to pay attention to your surroundings. Remember the 5 senses exercise from a few weeks ago? Try that. What can I see, smell, hear, taste, touch?
- If your mind goes into a direction you don’t want or starts to reel and loop on something that is too distressing, notice it. Gently bring your attention back to the physical world and or your physical sensory awareness such as your breathing. Let it pass without judgement. Walk with and through it.
- Mind your Mouth – No talking – If you’re walking alone this is not difficult, of course. When walking solo, avoid tech input. Remove your earbuds. If you have your phone with you, turn it to Silent. If you’re walking with someone you may want to agree to not talk for a block or two. Be aware of the itch to fill the space with words and chatter. Instead, allow silence and see how that feels.
- Mind Your Movement: Place awareness on the cadence of your walk and/or the rhythm of your breathing. Notice if you can take deep or relaxing breaths in a pleasant rhythm as you walk. This will help your body to reset and your mind to practice paying attention to your sensory experience.
So, remember: Mind, Mouth, Movement whenever you go out for a walk and experience how much more rewarding your walk can be.
Bonus: if you have the chance, kick off your shoes/sandals/socks and allow your feet to touch the ground. This is truly grounding and can help off load excess stress and activate your parasympathetic nervous system. We all remember what it felt like as kids to run on the grass, dirt or sandy beach. Check it out. Again. Rinse and Repeat.
REFLECTION: Do I notice any shift in my experience of Stress or Joy when I take a walk?
Lisa Wellington is a Certified Mindfulness Teacher who writes about integrative practices that downshift stress, increase insight, and jumpstart joy.
She is best known for her work with law enforcement professionals as well as those challenged by housing instability and addiction. Trained in the Fine Arts at Washington State University, she specializes in group training that engages participants’ inherent creativity.
If she is not under a stack of books about psychology and spirituality, she can be found at a Puget Sound beach or nearby trail, always searching for the absurd, which is her superpower.