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The Mindful Walk
When you walk, arrive with every step. that is walking meditation. there’s nothing else to it.”
Thich Nhat Hanh (Zen Master)
There is no doubt about it, this year more than most, has been a year that has challenged our mental health and resilience. In the face of the pandemic, lockdowns, changes to our usual ways of coping and so much uncertainty it has never been more important to make sure we are all keeping activities that help both our physical and mental health as a top priority.
Heart Foundation Walking has teamed up with Mindfulness Expert Marike Knight from Cool Karma Collected, a Modern School for Mindfulness, to shift the focus of our walking to include ways we can utilise our walking to better manage our minds as well as regulate our stress levels so that we are feeling cool, calm and collected, heading into the end of this year.
What is Mindful Walking and why would I do it?
When you are out walking, do you find you are able to tune into the present moment and just be out on your walk? Or are you running through the endless to-do list and making your pace a little faster? Maybe you’re concerned about your own health or worrying about various family member’s health? Or perhaps you’re thinking about the next time you’ll see your children and their children? Sound familiar?
The practice of mindful walking is the opportunity to give ourselves a bit of a break from the constant mental chatter. We actively try to arrive in the present moment with each step we take. Connecting with our breath, the sensations in our body, and the nature around us. Amazingly, this practice has been found to be a simple, yet profound way of lessening stress and worry and aiding in our mental health and wellbeing. Next time you are out for a walk why not give it a try?
Easy tips to implement Mindful Walking into your everyday
Make a conscious effort to stay present to your five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. On a walk there is so much to take in, but sometimes if we have been on the walk many times, we forget to really pay attention. The invitation each day is to go on your walk with a beginner's mind. Just like you might when on a holiday in a new environment. Pay attention to the changing of the seasons, to the ever-changing sky, to the different wildlife you encounter.
Go slowly, notice when you have increased the pace and where your mind was in that moment. Was it planning or thinking about what needs to be done today, or caught up in thoughts? In that moment take a deep breath and consciously slow down again.
You might like to set an intention to stay in the present moment for a set amount of time, whether it's 5 or 30 minutes it’s up to you. As you do try and notice things like:
* The ground supporting our feet.
* The activation of different muscles as we walk.
* Breathing in and breathing out and how our breath changes and flows.
* Different sounds, smells, the breeze on our face.
* The intricate beauty of nature, taking in the endless colours and shapes in nature.
Pretty soon you will also notice your mind begin to wander. This is perfectly normal, this is what minds do, but when you notice you have gotten caught up in the mental chatter again see if you can take a deep breath and open up to everything else that is around you in that moment.
Mental health benefits to Mindful Walking
The benefits of body movement, exercise and breathing are well and truly endless – that we know for certain! However, integrating these simple mindfulness exercises into our walking, we can experience benefits not just for the body but also for the mind.
In consciously tuning into our breath and opening up to our five senses during our walks we have the potential to:
Decreases stress and symptoms of worry and anxiety
Improve sleep habits
Improve overall mood and feel happier
Develop more appreciation and gratitude, which can substantially improve mental health and wellbeing; and
Allow ourselves a few moments without our smartphones, our to do lists, our worries and fears, and in doing so we organically allow our minds to slow a little and generally feel better
So, why not set an intention to give a mindful walk a try? Heart Foundation Walking in partnership with Cool Karma Collected have released two audio meditations, a short 5-minute intro as well as a 20-minute walking meditation to help get you on the right track. You can access them HERE. Please share your mindful walk with us on social and let us know how you go! #heartfoundation
If you’d like to get a better sense of how your stress levels and mental health is faring this year, why not take this 5-minute quiz developed by Cool Karma Collected and find out where you might be sitting on the Burn Out Scale. Don't worry, it's not scary, it might just allow you to bring a bit more awareness to the ways in which you are coping. Once you know where you fall on the scale, Cool Karma Collected will provide you with heaps of great tips, tools and mini meditations that are specifically aimed at helping you, so that you can continue to build on your bank of resilience now, and well into the future.
Cool Karma Collected in partnership with Heart Foundation Walking for World Mental Health Day