With the pandemic keeping us inside more hours than I’m used to, walking outside has become a necessity – and not just physically.
When I walk in my neighborhood, the park or along the trail, it immediately anchors me. Being outside calls on so many of our senses – sight, hearing, smell, touch and sometimes even taste (especially during blackberry season).
Experiencing the world outwardly in this way releases me from the anxious swirl in my head and into the relief of the present moment.
Next time you go for walk, try focusing on the world through your sense of sight. Name each object and living thing you see as you pass by: “blue house, fluffy puppy, oak tree, red mailbox, camelia bush” and so on. If you’re walking with your kids, make it a game by challenging each other to find something the other doesn’t see or look for objects of a certain color or beginning with a specific letter (a la Eye Spy). Intentionally noticing what you see, then letting it go as you walk by is a gentle, playful way to ground yourself in each moment.
Research shows that spending time in nature reduces stress, anxiety and depression. Although we’re not exactly sure why nature is such a soother – I’m pretty sure it has something to do with fresh air and the pure beauty of the scenery – studies show that nature sounds and even outdoor silence lower blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol, helping to calm us.