I always ask my clients how do they relax? Is it reading or meditating? TV or with friends?
It amazes me how few say their dog helps, especially when out for a walk with the beauty of nature all around.
Walking is always a mindful experience with a dog.
I am usually accompanied on my outings by my exuberant Chocolate Labrador Charlie. I am always “in the moment ” watching her antics. Her initial manic, yet graceful air pirouettes when we reach the holy grail of the park, to frisbee chasing in the gold flecked, long grass, her brown ears sporatically visible as she bounces up and down and up and down and up and….. You get the idea….
Old-time nurses haunts
We walk in the grounds of an old hospital. My favourite route is the old path leading from the reloved nurses homes to the lawn at the back door of the hospital. The landscape has stayed as it would have been years ago. The path has long overgrown but the trees are ever present , they overhang the path providing cover now from the elements just as they would have a hundred years ago. As a trained nurse myself I usually find myself thinking about those nurses on their way to and from work, walking along this very path. I usually think of them as either half asleep in the morning or giggling on their way home retelling some comic event from the day.
Do paths carry a memory of those who walked before?
Does memory soak into the stone and the earth? Can the others who in the past walked that way share with you in the present?
Its a lovely thought if you are on a path your ancestors have previously walked, a way to connect.What were they thinking and doing as they ambled along?
Its not just my personal musings on walking and nature that show merit, others have looked a little more scientifically into their uses through research studies.
One such study showed that those with access to trees and green spaces are less likely to be obese, inactive or dependant on antidepressants.
Another US study found those with tree views from their windows were discharged a day earlier than those whose window faced a wall.
Pregnant women were shown to have bigger babies and lower blood pressure when they had access to nature.
To experience the full pleasure of a beautiful walk we do need to be mentally present. Participants in an American research study were asked to rate their pleasure when they saw a series of photos, some were beautiful, some nice and others neutral. Beauty was then rated.
In the next round the participants attention was diverted with another task when rating the pictures. Beautiful images were rated lower in this round.
To appreciate beauty there should be no other distractions. Be mindful.
Many certainly claim that they do their best thinking when walking. Steve Jobs of Apple fame was well known for his walking meetings.
A study by Stanford University shows that walking indoors or outdoors can indeed boost creative inspiration. The act of walking is important not the environment. A person walking produced twice as many creative responses compared to a person sitting down.
It has been calculated that William Wordsworth whose poetry was filled with tramps up mountains, through forests and along public roads walked as many as a hundred and eighty thousand miles in his lifetime. Walking certainly helped his creativity!
Thoughts for your walk
Focus on your body and just observe the sensations you feel as you walk.
Take 30 seconds to take in the environment visually.
Then turn your attention to sounds and smells.
Finally bring your attention to physical sensations such as warmth of the sun or a cool breeze.
After a minute or two notice your body’s movement and your feet as they hit the ground. Use this feet cue just as you would use your breath in a seated meditation.
Enjoy for 5 minutes or so initially and increase time over a few weeks.
And finally ……
I will continue my danders with my Labrador. Life always seems brighter after a walk. Even on a rainy day the grass has that just washed smell and Charlie will inevitably find that elusive patch of mud and in the near future will also have that just washed smell!