30 August 2021 by Dr Jade Elizabeth
This summer the Ramblers are inviting us all to get out and explore the great outdoors with the #WalkYourWay campaign. There is no one way to ramble, but if you follow me on social media, you will see that walking my way is all about hiking mindfully and connecting with nature on a walk.
Ever wondered why you feel a sense of ease when you are out in nature, or when you take a deep breath of fresh air you feel as your mind has cleared and notice that the problem you have not been able to figure out suddenly makes sense?
For me, walking in nature has given me the opportunity to slow down and reflect. It provides an environment that is forever present and still, yet full of life and ever expanding. There are so many lessons that we can learn from nature and finding the time to connect with nature is important to me.
Green-blue spaces in nature such as, forests, rivers, fields, and urban parks have shown to have huge benefits to our health and wellbeing. From reducing our feelings of stress, improving mood and self-esteem to restoring mental fatigue and increasing our attentional capacity (Gladwell et al., 2013). In nature, there are less distractions from technology and the fast pace modern lifestyle that we have become accustomed to. For me, nature, provides a stillness and inner peace. It allows me to disconnect from my daily stress and reconnect with my mind, body, and the natural world.
Our connection with nature also helps us build an understanding to see how we are connected to the wider whole. Those who have shown to be more connected to nature have reported to be positively related to several positive outcomes such as life satisfaction and happiness (Richardson & Hamlin, 2021). Research has shown that it takes 120 minutes a week to increase our connection with nature and receive the benefits that nature has to offer (White et al., 2019).
One way that I have found to connect with nature is to learn to appreciate nature through a more mindful connection on my walks.
Being present: What is mindful walking and how can I incorporate it into my next walk.
Mindful walking is the process of being present while walking and can have a powerful impact on our wellbeing. Here are 5 of my favourite ways to hike mindfully:
1. Concentrating on the different senses
One way to connect with the present moment on a walk is to concentrate on different senses. When you are walking try and find:
- 5 things you can see – look in the distance, bring attention up close, looking above and on the ground
- 4 things you can hear – tune in to the sounds around you, footsteps, bird songs,
- 3 things you can touch – notice how they feel and describe the different textures
- 2 things you can smell – are they pleasant smells, what memories do they remind you of
- 1 thing you can taste - a good time to reach into your snack pocket!
2. Body scanning: focussing on your breath.
Notice how your body moves with each inhale and exhale. Take a note of your footstep, what part of your foot strikes the ground first? Feel the ground underneath and notice the sensations. Are you on track, grass, soil?
3. Repeating positive affirmations
Hiking mindfully can also include repeating positive affirmations. Affirmations are statements such as I am worthy, I am resilient. Affirmations helps us to positively impact our self-esteem.
4. Using your senses:Tree hugging!
Get up close and personal to nature and feel the embrace of a tree! In fact, Tree hugging and more specifically, forest bathing could reduce blood pressure, lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels and improve concentration and memory.
5. Walking with an intention
This is something I do at the start of any walk. Before you set off, take a minute to think about an intention you would like to get out of your walk. This could be “I want to leave any self-limiting beliefs at the bottom of this mountain, as I walk towards the summit I am walking towards my goals and aspirations.” As you walk you visualise that intention at the summit of the walk. Visualise leaving any worries behind you as you walk forward towards your goal.
On your next walk, why don’t you try walking more mindful and feel a deeper sense of connection to yourself and nature! Share your mindful hikes with us with the #WalkYourWay hashtag and tag me (@thejadeiteproject) and @Ramblersgb!
The Jadeite Project offers the opportunity to take part in mindful hiking. Led by Dr Jade Elizabeth, who has a PhD in psychology, you will learn how to celebrate what your mind and body are capable of. The walks aim to help you develop a mindset that helps you to achieve your goals and connect with the natural world around you, For more information follow @thejadeiteproject on Instagram.
Gladwell, V. F., Brown, D. K., Wood, C., Sandercock, G. R., & Barton, J. L. (2013). The great outdoors: how a green exercise environment can benefit all. Extreme physiology & medicine, 2(1), 1-7.
Richardson, M., & Hamlin, I. (2021). Nature engagement for human and nature’s well-being during the Corona pandemic. Journal of Public Mental Health.
White, M. P., Alcock, I., Grellier, J., Wheeler, B. W., Hartig, T., Warber, S. L., ... & Fleming, L. E. (2019). Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Scientific reports, 9(1), 1-11.
Challenge yourself to reach new heights this summer and find inspiration for your summer walks with our Walking Inspiration Packs! #WalkYourWay