Winfields Outdoors are on a mission to show everyone the many positive benefits of heading out into the great outdoors on a hike. The ‘Walk and Talk’ campaign is a fantastic initiative to encourage people to come together, get outside and embrace the benefits to our physical and mental well being. I’ve long been a fan of spending time outdoors to boost my health, and now I have a family and more pressures in my life, it’s more important than ever.
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s been a busy start to the year for us as a family, and I have felt my stress levels rising as more and more little things begin to accumulate. Being outdoors with my family has always been a brilliant way to help us all enjoy quality time together and relax. For me, being outdoors is a form of meditation, a time to encourage mindfulness. For me, this means that I am free from the distractions of my everyday life and can focus on one thing at a time. It’s really important to realise that we can’t always do everything, by walking and being outdoors I can leave all my baggage behind for a little while and concentrate on the here and now.
An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment…It’s about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives. (Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre)
In order to look after myself better and to make sure that the whole family benefits as much as possible from our outdoor time, here are three ways to easily encourage mindfulness while out walking.
Enjoy some quiet time
It doesn’t have to be for the whole duration of your hike, but a little quiet time is a great way to encourage reflection and a sense of calm. As you walk along, it’s easier to focus on the present moment if you are silent. I also find that when I’m walking I take more notice of the small details, like different birdsong or spotting wild flowers. All the little things that you don’t see when you’re rushing by, eager to tick off another task on your to-do list. You can also focus on taking deep breaths, which I find is really relaxing and a good way to keep my brain from wandering.
Use all of your senses
Going for a walk outdoors is not just physical exercise, but a way to engage with you surroundings and get all of your senses in tune with your environment. This is a tip I picked up from a couple of sessions at Forest School, and it’s very easy to do with all ages. There are many easy ideas you can put into practice here, for example, with younger children get them to use their eyes by looking for specific things, for example colours or leaves. You can also apply this principle to different textures to encourage the use of touch and find flowers and plants to smell. If you’re knowledgeable enough, you might even be able to forage and find things to taste.
Make sure the whole family are listening to what’s around them, this is a great way to get everyone noticing the small details that get overlooked.
Enjoy the view
Even on short walks, take a few minutes to have a break and enjoy the view. Talk about what you can see, focus in on the small details and really take it in. Also think about what you can hear and smell. You can ask questions to get everyone thinking about what they’re looking at, both near and far away. You can even lie down and watch the clouds for another perspective, and a great way to immerse yourself in your surroundings.
I love the feeling of being still and being fully engaged in the present moment. Even if you regularly go back to the same spot, the view is always different.
I often find that after a walk I am in a much better frame of mind and can then discuss or tackle any issues in a much more calm and objective way. As we head on into 2018, with a house move and a growing family on the horizon, I’m going to be relying on my outdoor time to keep me feeling positive.
These are just a few ways that I’ve found useful to encourage my family to be more mindful when outdoors. Do you have any ideas that have worked for you?
This post is written in collaboration with the Winfields Walk and Talk campaign.
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