In our last #WellnessAtWork piece for Mental Health Awareness Week earlier this month, we reported on the benefits that connecting with nature can have on our mental health and wellbeing. Notably The Mental Health Foundation found in their research on the mental health impacts of the pandemic, that going for walks outside was a top coping strategy, as 45% of those surveyed reported that being in green spaces had been vital for their mental health.
As part of our #WellnessAtWork campaign at Blythe Valley Park, we have previously researched, reported and held workshops on mindfulness and its associated benefits; so we think that following on from our last blog, it’s important and relevant that we fill you in on another mindful practice – mindful walking.
Dr Meera Joshi, mindfulness expert for Bupa UK states that “Mindful walking is a form of mindful movement. It uses the everyday activity of walking as a mindfulness practice to help you become more aware of the sensations in your body. By tuning into your environment and the sensations in your body as you walk, it can help you to focus on the present moment. Some people like to think of it as meditation in motion.”
A mindful walk can help to boost levels of attention and restore a sense of focus and can be done anywhere! You can mindfully walk to work or on the school run, or simply whilst doing your daily shop. However, it’s worth trying out amongst nature which, as previously reported, is hugely beneficial for our wellbeing.
Being amongst nature, and staying active by walking, has been one of the silver linings of the pandemic for many. If you haven’t considered this before, on your next walk why not leave the headphones behind?
Kayleigh Dray in her article for Stylist magazine (found here) stumbled upon ‘mindful hiking’ when she forgot her headphones as she embarked on a solo trip to the Scottish Highlands! In the article, Psychologist Owen O’Kane advises: “When you walk without music or podcast, you quieten external noise, unnecessary stimulus and lessen the possibility of excessive thought distractions,”
“Podcasts and music can be incredibly useful, but when it comes to mindfulness I suggest focusing on the more natural moments of human experience. There is often much more to be gained as you are creating space that will help ease struggles that the mind creates.”
O’Kane recommends that walking without headphones, particularly in nature, maximises the benefits of mindfulness. Spending time in nature promotes chemical changes in our mind and body; focusing on the things you can hear, smell, feel and see helps reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, therefore helping us to feel calmer.
If this has inspired you to try mindful walking or hiking, but aren’t sure how to start, head to the downloads section in the side bar to find out how you can start your journey!
However, if you feel like you need some help on your first try, then remember your headphones and try a mindful walking podcast, like the ones here from Bupa’s mindfulness expert mentioned previously, to help guide you through the process.
At Blythe Valley Park, occupier, resident, and visitor wellness is of utmost importance to us. If this blog and attached material has inspired you to try mindful walking, with or without headphones, the country park is the perfect place to practice. You can head here for more information on walking routes ahead of your attempt, and if you want a heads up on the kind of wildlife you will see on site, head here to find out more about our ‘Nurturing Nature’ project.