I’ve recently taken on a new routine in the morning which has completely changed the shape and outlook of my day. We know that time out in nature is really beneficial for our mental health and wellbeing, but as the days get shorter and winter closes in, it can become all too easy to forgo outdoor time in preference for staying warm and dry indoors.
This routine has helped me enormously to start the day with a smile on my face, although you might find that it works best at a different time of the day, such as lunchtime.
Every morning, as soon as I wake up, I put the kettle on and fill my flask with green tea. I walk the same loop every morning, down to the lakeside. I say hello to the same cast of characters en route and pet the same dogs. I stand by the lake and look out towards Borrowdale valley, the fells rising up on each side. Each day it looks different - different colours, clouds, some hills visible, others behind mist. Some mornings there is snow on the tops, or pink in the sky, other mornings early morning light begins to illuminate the mountain tops.
I then follow the path down the lake side where I go quietly and carefully in the hope of spotting a robin, or a blue tit. Some days I even see a wren. Here’s where I pay the most attention. I love seeing the birds and have developed such a deep appreciation for just watching them closely, listening to their song, seeing their feathers ruffle or the way they hop from branch to branch. I then walk down to the same bench that I sit on every morning, retrieve my flask and drink my tea as I watch the geese on the lake and the mountains in the distance.
There are a few reasons I chose the same walk every day. I love seeing the same people and dogs, knowing I’ll see my robins, and more than that, I don’t have to think as I walk out of the door. It is so easy on those cold, dark mornings to make excuses not to go, to stay indoors. However, I know after doing this loop time and time again that I return home relaxed, refreshed, with a smile on my face and better prepared to begin my day in the right frame of mind.
Knowing the route I’ll be walking, how long it’ll take, that there is beauty and nature around, takes away all the decision-making that can sometimes be paralysing enough to stop us going out. I have my flask on stand-by the night before and I wear a great big dryrobe every morning so that even if it’s bucketing down I will still go. So even in the snow I can still sit on the bench and drink my tea with a view. I make it as easy for myself as I possibly can and each morning I am rewarded with the best start to my day. No faff, no decisions, no excuses.
Some days I don’t go out on my morning walk, and by mid-morning I feel anxiety sneaking in. Some days I don’t feel like it, but just like anything else that’s repeated enough, it’s now becoming a routine that I don’t have to think about it, I just walk out of the door with my flask of tea.
I also make these walks as tech-free as possible so that I really can be mindful of my surroundings. I do normally take my phone but it stays on silent, and some days it stays at home. I don’t wear earphones to walk, and I don’t call anyone for a chat. The most magical part about it is an escape into the real world, where you can hear bird song, and the sound of water on the lakeshore.
This might not be for everybody, but I would really encourage you to give it a go for a week, or a fortnight, or a month.
The first thing to do is identify somewhere to go. Do you have a river, a canal, a park, a lake or a trail nearby? Or just a patch of wild green space that nature frequents? Can you walk there from your house?
Make it as easy as possible for yourself, remove as many excuses as you can - get your thick jumper, waterproofs, flask and boots ready the night before. I really hope you give it a go, and I hope that you too might benefit from a mindful walk each day.