Mindful Walking

As summer begins to taper down I find myself wanting more and more to enjoy the remains of the warm crisp weather, especially in the early mornings as I watch the sun rise before starting my day. It’s this simple exercise that I often forget is so healing.

Brighton Recovery Center - Fruit Orchids

Fruit Orchids outside of Brighton Recovery Center

 

As a clinician I attempt to utilize as many evidenced based interventions as I can to help my patients cope with their present compliant; it’s easy to forget a simple one, walking. Brighton Recovery Center has helped remind me of this as I look at our many walking paths and trails. I take people on these paths for therapy and see the reduction in symptoms from just a simple session. Rather than leaving people with a homework assignment to apply what we discussed. I leave them with an experience to duplicate.

What Is Mindful Walking?

Mindful walking is a clinically proven way of centering our minds and connecting with ourselves. Often when I walk I am thinking of the destination, what I will do when I reach said destination, and how I expect all the other pieces of my life to conform to my goal. Mindful walking is the opposite; it has us focus on the present, on the walk. The destination will occur once we arrive at it. Until then it’s just the present moment. This is the approach we ask those in recovery to take every day; “take it one day at a time” “stop future tripping”. What we want is for them to stay in the moment.

A simple concept that takes a very intentional and practiced approach I’ve outlined a few simple steps for mindful walking.

  1. Starting at the beginning of your walk, just notice your surroundings. Notice your body, how are you feeling physically in this moment. Notice your thoughts and make intentions to keep them focused on what you notice in the moment, not things ahead or behind you. If your thoughts wander just notice this wandering, and bring it back to present.
  2. As you take your first steps, notice the way your feet hit the pavement. People have different walks, notice your specific style. When does the ball of your feet hit, followed by your toes, then the other foot lifting. Notice the way your arms are held. Are they swinging, or tucked in your pockets. Be with your body and notice how it walks, how it’s being held. As your feet hit the ground think about your surroundings, where are you? Feel connected to that place.
  3. Notice what you feel in the air, what sounds are around you, what smells are in the air, how does the light look on your surroundings. Involve all 5 senses as you remain mindful of your steps and surroundings. Notice how your senses are responding to your surroundings.
  4. Pace your breathing. Notice yourself breathe in and out as you walk. Managing our breath is an essential piece of mindfulness. There is nothing more mindful than noticing your breaths go in and out.
Brighton Recovery Center Grounds where residents in recovery and staff participate in Mindful Walking.

Brighton Recovery Center Grounds where residents in recovery and staff participate in Mindful Walking.

 

Continue this walk for 10 minutes. When finished spend a moment being present with yourself then allow your mind to go on to the issues of the day. If you find your thoughts getting away from you at any point of the day go back to this simple exercise.
If this is practiced daily we are better trained to remain mindful as triggers, cravings anxieties, and negative thoughts come up. These thoughts arise and we watch them come and go, just like all thoughts do. They only have power when we attach to them. If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed by an issue in your life. Take a moment to walk mindfully then approach the problem again. Notice the difference in your response to the stressor before and after a walk.
Don’t feel like you only need to use this when feeling upset. Practice it daily to start your day off on the right foot. Practice the tools you need to keep yourself healthy so when it comes time to use them you’re already proficient at them. Use this practice above all to enjoy the moment. Our walk in life is happening in the present, be mindful and enjoy the journey.
Joe Gorton CMHC
Clinical Director of Brighton Recovery Center