Change your mindset as you walk with nature
Setting foot outside each day can help you begin to walk with nature and change your mindset. How you can begin a simple nature walk practice – whether you live near nature or not.
Walking soothes our senses
A neighbor of ours has a new puppy, and he posted on social media asking for ideas on how to keep her happy and occupied while he works from home. Another neighbor and I – both dog lovers and dog owners ourselves – agreed that a daily walk provides a dog with the best possible physical and mental stimulation.
My dog is a year and a half old, and you can see a huge difference in her pre-walk and post-walk. Pre-walk, she is restless and bossy. She chews on her bed, prods me with her nose, whimpers and begs to be let in and out (and in and out…). Post-walk, she’s content, and satisfied to lie down and rest. Her body needs that physical exertion, to be sure, but her brain also needs a chance to explore, sniff and see the world outside our own backyard.
I am sure you can see where I am headed… People are no different than puppies. We need those breaks to let off some steam and work out muscles, but we also need them to soothe our senses.
Studies show that walks in a natural setting have a greater impact on our mental well-being than exercise alone or walking in an urban area. A Stanford study reviewed the impact of natural-setting walks vs. urban-setting walks and found:
“The researchers found little difference in physiological conditions, but marked changes in the brain. Neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, a brain region active during rumination – repetitive thought focused on negative emotions – decreased among participants who walked in nature versus those who walked in an urban environment.”
A walk outside, in any kind of natural area, can help you shift your mindset. When you can break those habitual, negative thought patterns, you can open up your worldview to let in beauty, hope or even just a sense of calm and peace.
Create a daily walk habit
Neighborhood walks have been part of my life since childhood. It’s no coincidence that I have had dogs my whole life, and I was often the one who walked them as a child.
As an adult, I walk outside nearly every day (again, thanks to my current dog and my previous one who passed last year), and I miss it tremendously when I skip it. In fact, a few years ago, I didn’t walk for several weeks because my dog’s legs were injured and I didn’t want to go without her. Missing that outdoor ritual definitely impacted my mindset and my mood. I became depressed, and it dawned on me that a daily nature practice was not a luxury for me, but a necessity.
Now, regardless of weather, I make it a point to spend time outside each day. Even today, with 50mph winds whipping around outside my window, I will go outside for at least 10-15 minutes and walk through the crunchy leaves. I will feel the wind on my face and smell the fall air. That time, as usual, will reset my senses and bring me peace.
Start with these tips for building your own daily walk habit:
- If walking regularly is new to you, start with a goal of walking twice per week for 20 minutes and build from there. Then add time and days gradually until it becomes part of your routine.
- As the daylight hours grow shorter, finding time to walk can become a challenge. Try walking before work or over your lunch break.
- Choose a place with natural elements. You don’t have to head for the hills or a nature preserve to walk with nature. Find a quiet, tree-lined street, a nearby open space area or a park filled with grass, flowers, plants and birds.
- Find a walking buddy. For me, it’s often my dog (and sometimes my husband and son – you can see my son in this blog’s photo). If you prefer human company, invite a friend or family member to join you – and give them the gift of nature therapy in the process.
Spending more time in nature often begins with a simple walk right outside your own front door. Happy trails!
To learn how to incorporate nature into your daily life, and gain the benefits of a regular nature practice, check out the Personal Nature Project self-paced course. I also offer kitchen garden coaching sessions in-person or online. Reach out to me to learn more.