Do you have a daily ritual you feel is invaluable to both your physical and mental health?
For me, this ritual is the morning walk.
I am blessed with many things in my life, but time is not one of them right now. Despite this, my three children and I walk to my son’s school everyday. Not all would consider this a blessing, but my children have always woken around 5:30am. This enables us to leave the house by 7am to walk to school.
While it is a given that one of the benefits of walking is daily exercise, I’ve been amazed at the number of gifts we’ve received from this daily morning ritual. There are regular walkers each morning, some of whom have dogs, many of them elderly, who we see every morning. A little community has been created, where we look forward to the routine of seeing and greeting the same people and furry friends. No matter how grumpy anyone is when we leave the house, seeing our new “friends” always cheers us up.
This morning walk has also put us in deeper connection with the changing seasons. In the fall, my children play in the fallen leaves and note their different colors. In the winter, we bundle in scarves and hats, notice our cold breath in the air, and enjoy the transition of light to dark as the sun emerges after we leave the house. In the Spring, the poppies abound. The birdsongs in the morning are diverse and beautiful, and many snails and worms have been collected and redistributed in their gardens after the rain. Regardless of the season, having the time to transition from one place to another helps create calm, quiet, and prepare us for the next act of the day.
My daughter began noticing the trash on the ground, especially on the school campus as we are walking home, so we now collect trash. She finds this fun and feels proud to contribute to her neighborhood. Friends see us walking and wave, which makes my children feel very excited and a part of the greater community.
I have read articles about how walking to school decreases symptoms of ADHD, and this makes sense. Walking is slow, it is predictable, it offers routine, time to breath and move your body. It offers a number of mental health benefits as well as physical benefits. If you can fit it into your day, I highly recommend it. What do you do for your mind and body?
Daily walks are an excellent way to practice presence. As I read this post and what the author took time to enjoy about her walks, I struck me that walks can be a form of meditation. I walk 3-4 miles a day, if I can make the time and I usually can, to practice my ability to be in the moment. To look up and recognize the sky, to consciously feel wind and weather, to smell the air and understand, as well as I can, the fleeting nature of all life. Just being able to feel the ground under my feet and the strength in my legs carry me up and over the hill at the park every day gives my soul some kind of solace. Emptying the mind is such an effective tool for relaxation and self-awareness, and too often it is undervalued in our culture. Can you imagine how amazing we could be if everyone were taught this at a young age? If it came in that How to Manual for humans?
I definitely agree with you that going on walks can be a form of meditation! After I adopted my dog Luna, I started walking more; but more importantly, I started going on much more meditative walks. My dog likes to stop and sniff everything, so I’ve tried to take a cue from her: when Luna stops to sniff something, I stop too and take a moment to become more aware of my surroundings. For example, while going on walks with my dog, I’ve noticed interesting buildings or beautiful flower gardens in my neighborhood (even though I lived in my neighborhood for a year before adopting my dog, I somehow never noticed them before). I definitely feel like going on walks with my dog has helped me to become more mindful… perhaps that’s one of the reasons why pets are so beneficial for our well-being!
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