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  • Writer's pictureAlison

Walking for mental fitness

I was reminded of a walk for mental health that I lead in my local area when I recently retraced my steps with a group of friends and thought of just how much I got from leading the walk. I miss it!

It brought to mind a false belief that we can fall into when we volunteer our time or skills that it is all in the giving. In fact, as I have learnt with @johnwittington through his systemic coaching and constellations teachings, any healthy system has a fair balance of exchange, a giving and taking. As beautifully put by Penny Reid in her book Beard in Mind:

Don't set yourself on fire trying to keep others warm.”

To prepare for this opportunity, I was sent on a one-day training course on how to lead a walk, from risk assessment, to leading from the back and pacing to the slowest walker. As someone who walks fast in my own natural rhythm it was a challenge for me to recalibrate and notice how others were fairing. What immediately became clear was the equality of sharing a space, the ease of conversation which ebbs and flows in a different way to the intensity of being sat directly opposite of someone. I met many amazing people, some who came every week, others only occasionally.

Wonders and benefits of walking go back to Ancient Greece when Aristotle created the Peripatetic School. Your mind wanders without walls or containment, in tune with nature and yourself. Serendipitous inspiration, connecting dots that have been in the depth of your consciousness. It boosts creativity (a 60% increase in creativity according to a 2014 report by Stanford University) and releases endorphins into your body, and provides a fully oxygenated brain.

It is no wonder we sort so much out, whether calming down, reflecting, or having a eureka moment when we are in motion and not trying so hard.

So, if you have got into the habit of being sat for too long in front of a screen or elsewhere, start small and take 20 minutes. Even if it’s around the industrial park as I have often been seen to do, try the following:

  • Focus on your senses; what can you see, hear, smell, and even taste. Focus on your breathing, notice the feeling of calm return.

  • Invite a colleague to have a walking meeting, notice the difference in travelling alongside and in the rhythm and pace. Pause.

  • Focus on your surroundings, choose something as a metaphor to anchor a thought you have, describe what you see and notice how this serves your thinking.

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