How A Simple Mindfulness Walk Led Me Here

Photo by Devon MacKay on Unsplash

I have a new job; a really important one, and it’s perfect for me …

A few months ago, I accepted the part-time position of Executive Director of BCalm.

I know this is a great next step for me, working with an organization that is a collaboration of physicians, mindfulness facilitators, educators and researchers dedicated to facilitating increased mindfulness and reduced stress in workplaces, schools and homes throughout BC. A perfect pairing to what I already love to do with my consulting. I am continuing to create, train, teach, research, write, plan, collaborate and facilitate. But now, officially, with mindfulness always on my mind 😊

Over the course of our lives, we notice things about ourselves: we explore new interests, and acquire new passions.. And sometimes, we can’t recall when an interest was first spurred in that “something.”

But, me and mindfulness? I can pinpoint the EXACT experience that made me think, “Huh. There’s something to this, and I’m going to explore it further.”

It was just a completely ordinary, rainy, West Coast day, when I took a completely ordinary but EXTRAORDINARY walk with a dog called Charlie…

A Walk To Remember

Several years ago, I traveled to Ucluelet on Vancouver Island to continue writing chapters for my book. In exchange for staying in my brother and sister-in law’s beautiful home in this rain forest while they were away, my responsibility was to walk their dog, Charlie. The trouble is, it rains hard out there every day in the winter. On one particular morning neither Charlie nor I wanted to venture out in it, but I remembered that this was the day the garbage needed to go out on the street. So I begrudgingly pulled my rainboots on, and out went the garbage…and Charlie, who seemed to realize that the rain had lightened and looked eager to go. I changed from my pjs, grabbed a coffee and hit the trail, crummy mood and dog in tow.

I had been writing about mindfulness and so I took this as a golden opportunity to make more practice in a new skill for me: taking a mindfulness walk. I have a friend who walks this way for an hour every morning along the ocean as his morning meditation.

The Research

Mindfulness truly is a huge buzz word these days. But what does it actually mean? Mindfulness is a simple process of tuning into our surroundings and being aware of how we are responding to them. There are many ways to access this, but that friend of mine swore by his daily mindfulness walk which he says completely transforms his day.

This makes sense as there is an abundance of benefits that mindfulness can have on our health, work performance, engagement in life and on the cultures within which we work. More than just a buzzword, mindfulness can have the impact of increasing our positive emotion. Barbara Frederickson, author of “Positivity: Top Notch Research Reveals the Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life” (2009) and numerous other researchers recommend developing a mindfulness practice as a way of increasing the positive emotions in your life and curbing the momentum that comes with negative ones.

Using mindfulness walks to “interrupt” a negative emotional pattern has proven highly effective amongst several research studies. It combines the healing effects of nature with the emotional awareness of mindful practice. In fact, researcher Ellen Langer says “mindlessness” (the opposite of being mindful) is one factor that contributes to burnout, lack of engagement, fatigue and conflict, all of which are common challenges in today’s workplace.

Mindfulness Walks and Results

When we know better, we do better right? Knowing the research and detrimental effects of mindlessness, negativity and emotional patterning, we can begin to make new choices. Taking a mindfulness walk throughout the work day can actually increase workplace satisfaction, personal connection, feelings of fulfillment and even boost innovation and creativity. These are all the ingredients that make up an ideal workplace, aren’t they? Aside from workplace satisfaction, a mindfulness walk adds to your physical and personal health as well. There’s really no down side.

Walking to Feel Well

My walk, which I entered into half heartedly and solely for Charlie’s sake, turned out to make my day. This mindfulness walk made me feel not only creative, but it gave me a great amount of concentration for the rest of my day! I walked steadily, noticing the forest around me. Each rock, each branch, glancing from sky to ocean, and ocean to sky – wide, vast spaces. I noticed the greenness of my surroundings, and how the rain seemed to make everything almost seem like it was breathing. I watched Charlie move around in joy, splashing in puddles and sniffing the earth, her fur damp and ruffled.

In that mindfulness walk, I lived completely in the moment, forgetting the past and dropping my worries for the future. I turned inward and found a moving peace within myself that carried me through my whole day. I thank Charlie for that walk, my mindfulness walk companion. Sometimes, dogs just know best.

Living your Best Life, Mindfully

When managing a work group or simply building co-working relationships, a mindfulness walk can be used as a tool, not only for personal awareness and growth but also for connection and community. Charlie and I became closer that day, and I reckon the same is true for workplaces.

To live more mindfully in your workplace you could:

  • Set aside some time in the day, either alone or with a colleague, to take a short mindfulness walk. Start by noticing the things around you, limiting judgement, just noticing. Even better if this could happen outside in nature!
  • Share a mindful moment before meetings. How could you make the meeting space a place for folks to enter in a mindful way? Are there sensory needs to address?
  • Answer your emails during set periods of time, rather than constantly throughout the day. This urgency to respond can make us feel overwhelmed.
  • Make a list of tasks you need to accomplish. Finish one task before you begin the next. This allows you to truly give something your full attention, rather than moving between jobs.

Where I’m Meant To Be

The refresh that I experienced after that West Coast walk were powerful, and really resonated with me. This simple approach to walking and mindfully doing tasks has become a part of my framework. Mindfulness is something I practice daily, and I know what an absolute shift we could feel collectively if all we learn to be more present and aware of ourselves, in the absolute busyness of our modern lives.

And here I am with an opportunity now to increase the practice of mindfulness across BC. I’m looking forward to helping to lead BCALM into an exciting and successful future. I hope you’ll come along for the ride and check out the various programs and events we have to offer.

And if I can encourage you to do just one thing today, it’s to take a little walk, rain or shine. Just notice absolutely everything you can, and then take note of how beneficial it is to your  mood and your day.

Follow this blog for more workplace and personal practices to enhance your experience.

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Deborah Connors

Deborah Connors teaches leaders to radically shift culture so that people can flourish. She is an engaging speaker, storyteller, author and coach.

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