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How to Clear Your Mind with Walking

Dr Retha J v Rensburg. October 2019

· Mind,Life Skills

C. Louis Leipoldt is a South African poet…he illustrates in this poem the month of October. He declares October as the most beautiful month of all…and I agree whole heartedly. Whether it is the earth waking up in springtime in the Southern hemisphere or the riot of colours of autumn in the Northern hemisphere… this is the month of October, the most beautiful month of all!

Getting a bit of sunshine or a dash of fresh air is considered a stress reliever or a way to take a break. But did you realize that nature actually affects your brain and can alter your mental balance and emotional control? It should come as no surprise, then, that our brains are hard-wired to respond positively to being among trees, enjoying the sun’s rays on our faces, or breathing in fresh, clean air.

Not only is walking great for your body, but it is also an important habit that can help improve your mental as well as emotional health. When you combine walking with mindfulness, you get an activity that teaches you how to clear your mind and learn to focus more effectively as well.

Researchers have studied this connection in modern times to identify even more ways that nature influences and controls our emotional and psychological well-being. Spending time outside in natural environments or green spaces can reduce signs of stress, lower levels of specific stress hormones, and reduce the physical symptoms associated with elevated levels of tension. In studies of urban dwelling, even being able to simply see a tree or other natural elements helps to reduce stress. Those who spend more time outdoors are prone to feel less depressed and anxious, in addition to feeling more connected to their fellow man. Those who connect more with nature also become more conscious of how their behaviours and decisions influence our planet.

How to Clear Your Mind with Walking

Learning to practice mindful walking is not difficult, nor does it take a great deal of time. Practicing for ten minutes daily for at least one week will provide you with noticeable differences in your mind and emotions. This will ensure that you would want to continue with your practice. The goal of mindful walking is to practice an intention of movement while you are engaged in it.

Here are the simple steps to learning this practice.

Step 1.I want you to go for a walk! Right now, if you can. This will be a walk with a difference, because you will be walking MINDFULLY, and I want you to notice that you are walking. Go outside – it doesn’t matter if you’re in the city or countryside – open your door and start to walk. You’re not going anywhere in particular; you’re just walking.

You don’t need to live next door to a national park in order to experience the great outdoors. Even if you’re a city slicker, you can cultivate a closer connection with nature by taking a moment to appreciate the natural world you see every day—like the tree outside your window or the clouds high above your head. You do not need a large space, and, in case of harsh weather or other factors, it does not even really need to be outside. But mindful walking in nature gives you many more benefits than merely walking inside. You only need an area where you can walk between 10 and 15 steps in one direction without being interrupted. You are not trying to reach a specific place but instead to focus on the movement of taking each step.

Step 2.We begin a mindful walk as we do all mindfulness exercises, with a breath. Take a deep breath in. Count to five as you inhale and six as you exhale. Feel the air move through your nasal passages and hear the sound of your breath.

Step 3.Start walking. As you walk, bring your attention and awareness to the movement of your legs. Focus on each step. As you take each step, you should be deliberately thinking about each action you are taking, instead of doing them automatically, which is how we usually walk. You may feel somewhat awkward, at least in the beginning, but the more you practice, the more intentional your focus will become. Notice how the heel of each foot makes contact with the beautiful planet we all live on. Focus first on lifting one foot, then moving that foot forward. Focus on how you place that foot down, heal first. Feel the sensation of each foot in turn rolling forwards from heel to ball, and finally to the toes. And then shift your weight forward. Focus on how your back foot lifts and the cycle continues.

While doing this exercise, the most distracting sense is sight. So, soft-focus your eyes in front of you, and don’t ‘look’ at anything in particular – just focus your main attention on the movement of your legs and feet. Allow your gait to fall naturally and comfortably and keep your hand and arms wherever they feel the most comfortable. Focus your attention as you walk on each and every step. Do not take for granted any movement or sensation. Notice how your body feels with each motion, how your weight shifts with each step. While you can walk at any speed you choose you will find that your pace naturally slows down in any case.

Step 4.Feel your feet on the ground and start listening to the surrounding sounds. Shift your awareness now so that you are open to what is around you, to things that are limitless, unexpected, things that surprise, amaze and delight. Take a deep breath in. Count to five as you inhale and six as you exhale.

Your mind will start to wander, and when you notice this happening, gently bring your attention back to your steps. Keep this intentional focus going for up to ten minutes, and do not forget to and breathe…

Practise walking like this as often as you can. Usually when we walk, our focus is totally in our heads. Worrying, planning our to-do lists, rushing, and ruminating on past events. None of which will ever make the slightest bit of difference to events either in the future or in the past.

When we walk with full awareness of the movement of walking and what is happening around us (without getting distracted by thought), there is no room for worry – we are just walking. We don’t need thoughts to walk, so why bother with them? Instead, enjoy the simple but profound pleasure of just walking.

Final Thoughts

You can bring mindfulness to all sorts of activities, not just walking, but this practice is a wonderful way to clear your mind of the clutter of thoughts that occupy our brain during the day. At any time you need a break, are feeling stressed out, or are looking for inspiration, try a little bit of mindful walking to clear away the cobwebs, focus your mind, and restore calm to your mind.

From us at Zenzile life we encourage you to find some way to be outside each day, even for a few short minutes. Leave your phone on the counter when you take your dogs for a walk. Swap scrolling Facebook for looking at the shapes in the clouds. Observe the way the breeze feels on your skin, smell the freshly cut grass, and stop to marvel at beautiful flowers or leaves and the riot of colours all around you. After all it is October and what can you expect to be better, or more beautiful and filled with delight?

This post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered therapy.This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental Health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.

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blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.