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take an awe-inspiring mindful walk

You’ve probably experienced for yourself how even a short walk in nature can lift the mood. It’s something that I find easy enough to do in summer sunshine, but as the autumn nights start to draw in, the temptation to hunker down indoors has a tendency to take over. And when I do go for a walk, it’s all too easy to let the mind drift off into those old familiar patterns of worry and preoccupation. That’s certainly not mindful walking. So what is mindful walking? And can it really be a mood booster?

I read something in the paper last week which got me thinking. A study by the University of California, San Francisco found that walkers who were on the lookout for awe-inspiring things to focus on reported feeling much more positive afterwards than those who just went for a walk. Even more intriguingly, when asked to take selfies after the walk, those who had been instructed to seek “awe” had made themselves smaller in their selfie photos, leaving the focus on their awesome surroundings and even had bigger smiles than those in a control group!

So last Sunday I decided to try this out for myself. It was cold and raining. I really didn’t feel like going out. But out I went, taking a 45-minute walk along footpaths through the trees. I would be on the lookout for anything large, unfamiliar, or otherwise interesting like naturally occurring fractal patterns. If you’ve never heard of fractals before, try googling “fractals in nature” and prepare to be amazed. I chose a route that wasn’t familiar and left my mobile ‘phone at home. Here’s what I found…

The trees were starting to turn beautiful shades of yellow, red and gold. Apparently, the warm weather in September (remember?) is making this autumn’s displays particularly colourful. There were some great fractal patterns on the leaves and on this wet tree stump.

I came across some mushrooms. There’s something fascinating about how mushrooms spread and grow. I stopped to take a good look; to smell the damp earth around them and to wonder about how many years they might have been growing here.

I stood close to a really tall tree and looked all the way up the trunk. Yes, it was truly awesome.

Towards the end of my mindful walk, I found Larry the lockdown snake. What a lovely idea! I stopped to take a good look.

Mindful walk over and I can genuinely report that I felt even more positive than I did after most walks. I will certainly be doing this again. I’ll aim for at least three mindful walks each week. Whatever the weather.

You don’t have to be in nature to walk mindfully. Try finding interesting architectural features in buildings. Look out for really tall or unusual structures. At night take a look up at the starts. The possibilities are endless.

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