As most of you who read this blog will know I am a massive advocate of the healing and wellbeing properties provided by nature. In light of World Mental Health Day today I’ve taken the opportunity to ask Isabelle Griffith to share her tips to help introduce mindfulness into your adventures.
Isabelle Griffith is a certified Yoga and Mindfulness teacher, founder of Light up & Thrive and host of The Mindful Path podcast.
Yoga and Mindfulness have been a part of her life for over 13 years and have had a profound effect on who she is and the way she chooses to live. After many years in the corporate world, she decided to dedicate herself to helping others nurture their minds and bodies, and live lighter and more intentional lives.
She loves outdoor pursuits and is fortunate enough to live with her family on the edge of Richmond Park, where she enjoys taking her rescue dog Otto for long walks.
The time of the year has arrived where leaves are turning vibrant shades of yellow and red, and autumn walks are calling. Nothing signals the arrival of autumn like outdoor adventurers wrapped cosily against the hint of chilliness in the air. If asked, most of us would probably say that we enjoy outdoor adventures, but could weaving small mindful actions into these adventures make them even more enjoyable?
Mindfulness is very simple. It is usually defined as the art of being present, in the moment, with curiosity and without judgement. It’s experiencing the present moment fully, tuning in to your senses and out of auto-pilot.
We tend to live big chunks of our lives automatically, moving from one place to the next without being fully conscious of what we are doing. Have you ever walked to the train station in the morning and realised as you arrived, that you have no recollection of the journey there? Typically we are lost in thoughts about the past or the future. We might be daydreaming or worrying, wishing a past situation had unfolded differently or projecting ourselves into the future, thinking about an
important work presentation we have the next day.
Vast parts of our days are spent anywhere but in the present moment. Yet, the past and the future don’t exist anywhere but in our imagination. Here and now is where our life happens.
For many of us, outdoor adventures are times we look forward to and cherish. Wouldn’t we all benefit from engaging with them more deeply? To savour them, and in many ways make them even more memorable. These adventures offer countless opportunities to practice mindfulness playfully, and without any effort.
1. Try not to have set expectations of how your adventure will turn out to be. The weather, if
nothing else, can be unpredictable, and the adventure you imagined and planned in your
mind might be different from the reality. Expectations often breed frustration, so try seeing it
as an opportunity to go with the flow and be in the moment. Remember that navigating the
unknown is part of being adventurous.
2. Put your phone away and tune in to what’s happening here and now. As tempting as it may
be to view the world through that small camera lens and capture memories, nothing beats
enjoying them in the moment. Watching our adventures from behind our phones creates an
invisible barrier between us and our experience. So take that picture, then put your phone
in your pocket and try to forget about it.
3. Walk mindfully. Feel your feet crunching the leaves with every step you take. Slow down and
notice the motion of walking within your body. Explore how your body feels as you take one
step, and the next one. If you are walking with children, try walking like a bear and notice
how different that feels.
4. Broaden your focus, get ‘out of your head’. Be curious and inquisitive. Explore what you see,
hear and smell. Notice the colour of the sky, the contour of the leaves on a particular tree,
the smell of moss or recent rain, the call of deer in the distance, the wind blowing on your
face. Identify all the different shades of orange, red, yellow and brown leaves you can find
amidst the vibrant autumn colours.
5. Make a deliberate choice (switch out of auto-pilot). Take the path you’ve never tried before,
allow yourself to play hide and seek with your children or run so fast that your legs feel like
they can’t stop… even if that wasn’t planned, even if your rational brain is telling you it’s
‘silly’. Choose how you want to experience today’s adventure intentionally.
6. Play mindfully – If you have children, autumn provides so many great sensory experiences:
touching the smooth skin of conkers and the spiky green case around them, kicking the thick
layer of dried leaves on the ground or throwing them up in the air like confetti. Try matching
fallen leaves with the name of the tree they originated from. You could even take your shoes
off and explore the feeling of the leaves under your bare feet.
7. Take a pause. Sit or stand still for a brief moment, and take 3 deep breaths. Close your eyes if
that’s comfortable. Inhale the fresh air all around you, and exhale slowly through your mouth
as if you were blowing out a candle. Notice how you feel: energised? Tired? Happy? Sad?
Excited? Try not judging what you find, and avoid labelling a feeling as good or bad. Simply
notice it and name it if you can.
8. If you go for a hot chocolate afterwards or drink a sip of cold water on your walk, truly enjoy
the experience of taste (sweetness, bitterness, no taste at all), warmth or cold in your mouth,
and the feeling of your cup or bottle in your hands. Enjoy this well-deserved drink fully.
There are so many other ways you could incorporate a little bit of mindfulness into your daily adventures. Why not invent your own?
Enjoy your adventures, and don’t forget that you can weave most of these tips into your daily life too. Give it a try, you might be surprised by the impact small, mindful actions can have.