As the rain starts to recede and the sun makes more of an appearance in our little part of the world, getting outside can become an easier and more enjoyable way to spend the day. A simple and pleasurable outdoor activity for many people is going for a walk (and for those who are unable to walk, rolling in a wheelchair can be equally pleasurable).
In terms of health benefits, walking (or rolling) is a great form of exercise for our bodies. In addition, getting outside and moving in this way is beneficial for our mental health. Bringing some intention to how we direct our attention while we move can help to enhance these benefits for our minds. Try experimenting with these ideas while out on your next walk:
1) Practice Gratitude
Whether walking in nature or along a downtown sidewalk, there are countless things to notice for which we can be grateful. The trees, the sun, the air, the people, the gift of being alive in this world for another day. When we shift our minds to think in terms of appreciation and gratitude, the positive effects on our mood can be profound.
2) Notice Your Judgements
Our human minds are wired to judge: “This is good, that is bad,” “This is right, that is wrong,” “I like this, I don’t like that.” We do it so much and so automatically that many of us don’t even realize how much we do it, or how it tends to impact mood – often negatively. Interestingly, we don’t actually need to judge nearly as much as we do, and by bringing greater attention to this tendency we can start to get off the roller-coaster of judgement and extreme emotion. Going for a walk is a great activity for experimenting with this practice. Simply notice your mind’s tendency to judge – good or bad – whatever you notice as you walk along. Practicing suspending these judgments can be quite liberating.
3) Focus on Your Body
In addition to all the judging, our minds are also very busy in numerous other ways on a constant basis. As a result, many of us are largely out of touch with the sensations of our physical bodies, and this can have negative impacts on a wide range of wellness factors from emotional regulation to appetite and digestion, and pain-management. Walking provides an excellent opportunity for fostering greater body awareness. In addition to paying attention to where you’re going and staying safe, you can also bring attention to the sensations of your moving muscles, the breeze against your face and the pressure of the ground against the bottoms of your feet. As you continue to shift your awareness in this way, you may find that your relationship with your body changes for the better.
We hope that these ideas bring some added benefit to your time spent outside. Enjoy the fresh air and sunshine!