How to have a mindful walk

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“A mindful walk is about being in the present moment and noticing the small things right in front of us,” says psychologist Dr Jess Walker. “It can give us that moment of calm”. So why not make your next walk a mindful one? Here, Dr Walker shares her tips for making the most of a mindful stroll.

Start small

There’s no right or wrong way to have a mindful walk. Just give it a go! You might want to start with a short stroll. While walking, take the time to really notice your surroundings, to ground you in place and time. It’s really beneficial to have that break for our minds, even if it’s only for five minutes. Don’t worry if your mind goes off to other things either, just bring it back to the present moment.

Find a green space

You can have a mindful walk anywhere, but many people respond well to more natural environments. If you’re in a busy urban environment, your brain needs to process a lot more and will find it harder to be still. You don’t have to go far, it can even be your back garden, a balcony or a local park, but ideally you want to choose somewhere with natural elements. You might want to find somewhere familiar to begin with too. You may also want to pick somewhere that’s important to you. For example, I like being by the water, whether it be a river or the sea, as it holds happy memories and feels very tranquil.

have a mindful walk

Take a deep breath

Sit somewhere quiet before your walk and practise deep breathing, to feel calm and soothed. There are lots of breathing methods you can try, but the main thing is to breathe deeply and slowly. Your heart rate goes up when you breathe in and down when you breathe out, so remember to elongate your out breath. Try to breathe deeply from your belly, something we often neglect to do. You can check you’re doing this by placing one hand on your chest, the other on your belly and noticing which moves more. Ideally you want the hand on your chest to stay relatively still and the one on your belly to move outwards on the in breath and inwards on the out breath. Continue deep breathing during your walk.

One step at a time

Notice the speed you’re walking at. Walk slowly and connect to what’s happening around you. Focus on putting one foot in front of the other mindfully, which can feel quite peaceful. If you do think about other things, that’s ok, just bring yourself back to the moment. If you like, you could try a walking meditation. Slowly place one foot on the ground, from heel to toe, repeating the steps in your head. For example, “left foot up, left heel down, left toes down”. Do the same with your other foot, heel to toe, then repeat for alternating feet. Repeat the steps to yourself keeps your mind occupied.

Explore your senses

Take a moment to stop and explore your senses. What can you see? Notice how things around you are moving. You might want to really focus on detail and follow an insect on its journey or explore the minute patterns on a leaf. Think about what you can hear around you too. Can you hear the wind in the trees or birds singing? Notice the different sounds. Then move on to touch. Stop occasionally to touch things and keep you connected. You could take your shoes off to feel really grounded. Notice what it feels like when you’re standing, how your feet feel on the bare ground or in your shoes.

Think about what you can taste too. Does the air around you have a particular flavour? Have a think about what you can smell. It’s a sense we often forget about. Can you smell fresh grass? Does the wind have a certain smell? I’d recommend a mindful walk whatever the weather. A rainy or windy day can be as beautiful and interesting as a sunny day. Notice how the weather feels.

have a mindful walk

Remember the moment

Taking a photo can create a helpful memory of your walk if it’s a place you felt connected to. It can be a mental picture or a literal one. You can think about what your senses experienced there when you’re back at home. When we remember somewhere that’s soothing to us, we can feel like we did in that moment. Recalling this special place in your mind, using all your senses, is a useful grounding technique to ease any stress too.

Most off all, have fun on your walk! The wonderful thing about a mindful walk is that it’s free and can be done anywhere. So why not give it a go?

Dr Jess Walker

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Dr Jess Walker is a counselling psychologist with over 15 years’ experience in the field. She runs a talking therapy practice in Bristol and online using a blend of approaches, including mindfulness, compassion focused therapy, relational therapy and EMDR.

Dennis Maps is one of the leading map printers in the world, producing more than two million maps and charts every year. We offer comprehensive pre-press services, large format print solutions using both large format litho printing and large format digital print technologies, plus specialised map folding and map finishing techniques.