Choose an area you know well – it may be your route to work, a local park or a favourite hill or wood. If possible, try to choose somewhere that connects with the natural environment or has elements of nature in in. It may be worth timing the walk without doing any of these exercises so you know where your end goal is (if you are doing it in a restricted space you could set a timer on your watch/phone for the first session).
- Start by being still – you can stand or sit, whatever feels comfortable – and just breathing in and out. You may want to close your eyes but it is not essential – whatever feels good for you. Imagine in your mind the goal of the walk; the destination and the natural environment you hope to experience. Embrace the good feelings and thoughts.
- Next consider your breathing
- Concentrate on the action and feelings of the breath entering your body then washing over you as you breathe out. Do this for 10-20 breaths
- Now try the 4-7-8 breathing exercise. Breath in quietly through your nose for a count of 4. Hold your breath for a count of 7 then exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. Do this 3 times
- Open your eyes and move to the start of your walk
- For the first few minutes, walk at natural pace, put your hands where they feel most comfortable. You should always be alert to your surroundings and what is going on in them and remain safe.
- With each step, feel the lifting and falling of your foot. Notice the feel and texture of the ground. Notice that you are connected to the earth.
- Count your steps in your head. Count up to 10 then start again.
- Everytime things capture your attention or your mind wanders, guide it back to the sensation of steps and the count
- Without stopping, change your attention to the sounds around you. Don’t label them or judge them good or bad. Just be aware of the different sounds.
- Open up your awareness now to the smells around you. You may want to pause if you are in the countryside or woodland and discover different scents. Don’t try to identify or judge them, just be aware. Closing your eyes if you are safe to do so can help to heighten the awareness.
- Carry on with the walk and notice what you can see on your journey and in your peripheral vision. The colours, strength and variety of the natural world. Be safe and aware of obstacles that need addressing but then gently bring back your visual awareness.
- When ready, let all the sights, sounds and smells come into your awareness. Note them, don’t label, don’t judge. Feel the joy of being connected with the natural world and walking. You have nothing to fix, do or change. You are just walking.
- As you near your goal, move your awareness back to walking – feel your feet touch the earth and the connection with the earth. Feel your achievement of reaching your destination fully alert and aware of your surroundings.
- Stop and pause. Be aware of your breath again. Let it fill your body and wash back out over you. Reflect on how calm you now feel, how this has made you feel positive about the future, how you are in control. Whenever you feel this start to fade, remember and feel the connection between your feet and the earth.
(This exercise has been produced using useful guidance found on mindful.org and “Mindfulness and the natural world” by Claire Thompson)