Bring balance to body and mind by taking a mindful autumn walk. Bath CBT therapist Ali Binns gives her tips on mindful walking...
All you'll need is:
An outdoor space (park, woodland, forest)
Comfy shoes or wellies
A curious mind
Walking partner (optional)
For lots of people, it can be so tempting to settle into a boxset and stay indoors, when the autumn takes hold, but research is showing that connection to nature, exposure to natural light and getting some daily exercise is essential for our overall wellbeing. While a boxset of Peaky Blinders, Poldark or Better Call Saul definitely have their benefits, a regular dose of mindfulness can train our minds to notice what’s happening in the here and now, helping us to release stress and anxiety, and notice our mind’s patterns. Setting aside time in your lunch breaks, after work or at weekends to take a walk in the autumn air could be the just what the doctor ordered. Combine your walk with some mindfulness practice and you can benefit even more.
A mindful autumn walk involves engaging the senses in the activity and you have plenty of choices of how you approach it. There are two key things when planning your mindful walk. The first is to set aside a period of time to use the walk as your mindfulness practice, or you may decide to be mindful for the whole of your walk. The second things is, when you notice your mind wandering anywhere other than where you are walking, keep it on the path, by giving it a gentle pat, noticing it where has chosen to take a walk on its own, and bring your focus back to the sights, sounds, and experience around you.
Here are some tips on making the most of a mindful autumn walk:
As you begin your walk, you might take a few breaths, paying attention to the rise and fall or your breath, noticing the air as it goes in and out. Maybe there’s something to see here too, does your breath mist the air, if so you could watch as it dissipates.
You may like to pay attention to the feeling of your clothing on your skin, is it warm, cosy, smooth, rough? Note how it feels and whether it changes as you walk.
SIGHTS The most obvious signs of autumn are visual, so as you go further into your mindful walk, you may choose to home in on sights, using your eyes to appreciate what you see. You may notice the ranges of colours, shapes, contrasts you’ve never seen before, interesting textures, the dapple of sunlight, the way the colours change as the wind moves leaves, shadows, the brilliance of a blue sky as the backdrop to vivid leaves changing into their autumn colours, falling leaves, fallen leaves, natural objects, clouds moving across the sky. What can you see?
Your mind almost certainly will try to take itself for another walk - perhaps back to work, planning meals, thinking about something that happened earlier, Poldark (!)… if so, bring it back to your chosen focus. Every time you do this, you are being mindful and connecting back to the present moment.
SOUNDS Focusing your awareness on sounds during your walk can be a very new experience. Use your ears as attentively as you can to see what you can pick up. What can you notice? Rustling leaves, birdsong, insects, children, pets, traffic, voices, forest creatures, maybe silence. Whatever the sounds you find, can you just be with those sounds, listening to their qualities?
TOUCH The fruits of autumn are there to be found. It might be a novelty to explore these with your sense of touch. You could try running your fingers through some damp moss, exploring the dew on ferns, try letting a small insect (yes, really!) take a walk in your hand, pick up leaves, nuts, and feel their shapes and textures. Rough, smooth, heavy, light, curved, spiky, indescribable…?
TASTE A comforting way to complete a mindful autumn walk is with a warm drink, whether it’s a good old fashioned hot chocolate or a cup of soup. With your mindful awareness still switched on, feeling the warmth of the mug, bringing a welcome warmth to your hands, notice the taste of your drink as you bring your practice to an end. Thank yourself for taking this time and devoting it to being truly in the moment.
What did you notice during the walk? Were you surprised at anything in particular? Can your experience of mindfulness during the walk be applied to other areas of your life? The Counsellors Cafe would love to hear your thoughts.
Ali Binns is a cognitive behavioural therapist based in Bath, Somerset. She studied at the College of Cognitive Behaviour Behavioural Therapies and holds qualifications in CBT, REBT and mindfulness and meditation training. Ali uses an integrative approach, using techniques from CBT, ACT, mindfulness, and compassion focused therapy to help her clients.
You can find out more about Ali's practice and get in touch via www.alibinns.co.uk