February 6, 2023

How taking a mindful walk can change your day

In this article, I'd like to share with you the experience that I had when following a simple prompt from another website.  While many people tout the benefits of walking for exercise AND for wellness and overall mental health- few of them give you an added tool to make those walks even more helpful.  Street Wisdom is different. Check out my experience talking a mindful walk using one of their prompts. 

Taking a walk with a prompt

Street Wisdom Walk Prompt - Used with Permission. Visit their website for more information on the Street Wisdom program.

I'm not sure how I originally stumbled upon Street Wisdom, but as their website claims, this is "an everyday creative practice you use as you walk." 

I encourage you to go to their website, download the audio guides or follow their Facebook page and take a walk using these tools.  Street Wisdom turns an ordinary neighborhood walk into a mindful adventure. 

A Walk With A Prompt: Be drawn to what attracts you....and notice what doesn't

 In the Street Wisdom prompt that I saw on their Facebook page, the instructions were to go for a walk and "be drawn to what attracts you...and notice what doesn't.  Be physically drawn, like young children, walk towards whatever interests you. Also notice what doesn't attract you - what your mind tells you isn't so interesting or to your taste.   Source: Street Wisdom

What happens when you embark on a mindful walk

With this prompt in mind, I went out my front door, down my long driveway and to the right down the street in my neighborhood.  This street is one we take often - so the path feels familiar and I often think about other things while I am walking.

Today, I took an intentionally mindful walk.  It was trying to "just walk" and let these things I would be drawn to come naturally, but it was hard.  I found myself really looking around in all directions, trying to find things that I was drawn to (or repulsed by).   It was a little hard at first, but I think that is evidence of the desire that some of us have to "complete an assignment." 

I took a right turn where I normally go straight and that's when it happened.  I noticed that there was a parked car right in my path.  And it was a beater - an ugly, rusted old car that I was definitely NOT drawn to.  

And then something interesting happened. 

Instead of walking around the car and continuing on, I crossed the street and started walking on the other side.  I wasn't so much walking towards something interesting, but actively noticing that I was not drawn to this car and that I wanted to put space between it and myself. 

But after I crossed, I remembered....

Mindful walking involves noticing what you are drawn to: 
Fractal pattern in a pincone

It wasn't a big thing - just a pinecone on the ground.  

But the coloring and the pattern on it caught my attention in a positive way.  I started looking around and found the tree from which it fell.  

Again these patterns in nature, fractal patterns, really caught my attention.  I notice the smell of the tree and the texture of the needles and the pinecones.  

I was drawn back to the other side of the street by an interesting plant. 

Mindful walking involves noticing what you are NOT interested in just as much as noticing what you ARE interested in. 

And all the while, I was noticing how I crossed the street to get distance from the places with overgrown bushes or the other non-appealing colors.  Instead of walking in a loop, I turned back around to see the pleasant sights I had already passed. 

In a mindful walk, remember to act a bit like a toddler.

And so this zig-zagging continued.  And I felt like a toddler pointing this way and that way, "look, over here" and then "ooh, what is that."   

I noticed the weather, the garden gnome... and then something really interesting happened.

A slight headache - which was unexpected in an exercise of mindful walking.  You would think that this walk would create a feeling of peace and calm.  

What I noticed was that this constant motion - the going from one thing to the next and then back and forth was making me feel dizzy.  But, I also noticed how my walk paralleled my life.  I noticed that my work that day had been a context-switching disaster where I was going from one project to another and then back - being drawn to some things and not others.  

I continued walking reflecting on the information.  There are benefits to following your attention.  And there are costs, as well. 

A mindful walk is a creative practice

But, true to Street Wisdom's motto...this walk was a creative practice and during this mindful walk, an idea came to me!

I was inspired by this Street Wisdom walk to create an expressive arts activity.  *Now, I am quite sure that an art therapist somewhere will read this and say that this activity existed well before me writing this blog ...but at the time, the idea came from within me.

Journal Exercise For Noticing Your Attention

  1. Gather a magazine and two sheets of paper.  
  2. On one paper, cut and paste things that you feel drawn towards.  
  3. On the other sheet, cut out things that you are not interested in - things you find disgusting or repulsive.  
  4. Notice the differences between the two sheets of paper.

In your journal, finish these sentences.....
What I notice about the things that I am drawn to is....

What I notice about the things I am repulsed by is.....

Something I can take away from this exercise is....

How did this work for you? 

Let me know if these techniques worked for you by leaving a comment below. 

P.S.  I recently re-opened my business Facebook Page.  If you want to follow me there, that might be fun - it's stuff like this but more often. 🙂

If you found this helpful, subscribe to the mailing list and get a story and a journal prompt every Monday. 

About the Author

Jen Taylor, LCSW-C, RPT-S is an EMDR Approved Consultant and Certified Journal to the Self Instructor.  She is a therapist specializing in complex trauma, an international play therapy teacher and a published writer of multiple play therapy chapters.  Jen is the creator of the original 2017 Play Therapy Summit and many other innovative programs for mental health professionals.  Jen uses writing therapy, play therapy and expressive arts for her clients and for other mental health professionals so they can lead more joyful and meaningful lives.  Jen encourages people to try new things and create daily habits that allow for incremental progress towards previously unimaginable results.   Jen is a travel enthusiast, an avid reader, and a girl who lifts weights and runs for fun.  

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