Mindfulness Woodland Walks - What's all the fuss about?

Mindfulness is something we're always told we should be practicing, but we're never told how. Like many others I've tried my fair share of mindfulness in the past.

I've used apps, done yoga, breathing exercises, you name it and I've probably tried it. But nothing seemed to stick, I'd make a start and then life would get in the way and mindfulness was pushed to the wayside.

I always wanted to continue with mindfulness but wasn't sure how to integrate it into my life.

So when Wendy Palmer-Grove from CoachGenie contacted us to invite us along to experience mindfulness I was very keen.

Wendy is based in Wythall and runs a Wellbeing practice with a focus on mental wellbeing. She works with individuals, organisations and community projects across the West Midlands.

She is also a trained clinical mindfulness teacher and has recently set up at The Pilates Gym in Becketts Farm where she holds Mindfulness classes of a lunchtime and evening once a month.

The classes are open access to allow anyone to join and learn techniques for dealing with stress and anxiety and improve their overall mental wellbeing.

But what we were most interested in were the Mindfulness Woodland Walks which work on the same theory of the classes but in nature.


As regular readers will know I have a dog, a very active dog so I spend a lot of time out in the countryside encased in mud. I like being out in the fresh air so walking in the woods was very appealing to me.

So myself and our work experience girl, Madie, decided to join in on a Mindfulness walk to see if it really would make a difference to our mental wellbeing.

The meeting spot was at The Dog, a Harvester restaurant on the Henley Road in Studley. The pub is really accessible to Wythall residents and took around 10 minutes to get there. The arranged time to meet was 10:10 in the morning of Sunday 27th Jan.

Because the woodland area was difficult to find we met first so we could drive there in a convoy. The group included around 10 or so people and were all very friendly.

The woodland area was located  in Morton Bagot and is a privately owned woodland.


We arrived at the wood and Wendy gave a brief talk about what the session would include and a bit of background about herself. Then we set off and started to walk to a clearing. 

We were encouraged to walk in silence and just enjoy our surroundings which was a struggle to begin with. You don't realise how much you mindlessly chatter when you're making a conscious effort not to. 

We arrived at a clearing and were told to find a stable place to stand. We were then lead through a breathing exercise where we closed our eyes (or lowered our gaze) and deepened our breathe - breathing in through our nose and out through our mouths. 

This was the first exercise we did and I'll be honest I found it quite challenging to turn my brain off. I'm a very busy person, always on the go and my brain mirrors that. 

Actively trying to slow down can be tricky to begin with, but the important thing to remember is not to get annoyed because your brain is still buzzing, but to just accept the thoughts as they arise. 

After the breathing exercise we continued solitary walking to another clearing where we did a similar breathing exercise but for longer. I found this exercise easier than the first as I was already feeling relaxed. 

Just being out walking in nature had a massive calming affect on me and other members of the group.  We then continued with the solitary walk to a larger clearing where we started a group exercise. Wendy called this 'rewilding the senses' where you try and use your senses to pay more attention to nature. 

We had to pair off with someone we didn't come with and lead them around the clearing describing what we see whilst they had their eyes closed. Then they did the same to you. 

This exercise was quite strange to begin with, to totally trust a stranger to lead you across uneven ground is difficult but is also freeing - it opens the rest of your senses because you can't see. 

After we finished that exercise we continued along further into the forest until we came to another larger clearing. Wendy gave us all bin bags and we either sat down or lay down on the floor. She then lead us through a meditation session that lasted around 10-15 minutes. 

This session was difficult for me, mainly because of the intense cold! But also because my brain would keep wondering off, but the longer we meditated the calmer I became and the easier the meditation became. 

When the meditation ended Wendy gave us hot chocolate to stave off the cold which was greatly appreciated!

We continued walking further into the forest for a final exercise called mindfulness eating. The concept is because of the busy lives we lead we eat subconsciously and don't pay attention to the food we're eating. 

When you eat mindfully you take in the smells, texture, look and the taste of the food. To test this out Wendy gave us all grapes and told us to explore the grape before we ate it. 

I'll be honest it was quite bizarre as usually I'd just throw the grape in my mouth and move on, but it did show me how much more you can taste from food when you pay attention to what you're eating. 

We then repeated the exercise to see if it became easier or different and I think once again it made me appreciate how subconsciously I eat and has encouraged me to try to slow down when I eat from now on.

Wendy then handed us out a toffee and told us to wonder off on our own around the clearing for however long the toffee lasted. 

This was quite difficult for me as I was desperate to chat to Madie to talk about all we had experienced in the day, but once I full focused on the environment I was in I got caught up in the trees and nature around me. 

Once we re-grouped we started on the walk back to the cars. 

Myself and Madie had a wonderful day and really learnt something from Wendy. We highly recommend these sessions and think the work that Wendy is doing will really benefit the community. 

If you'd like to get in contact with Wendy or find out some more information click here

Is this something you're interested in? Do you think mindfulness is worth a try? Let us know in the comments below! 

A special thank you to Wendy Palmer-Grove for inviting us we had a brilliant time!

Photographs taken by Madie Osborne.

Comments

  1. Thank you Leigh and Madie, a pleasure to have you both join the group on what was a very cold day. I think we experienced everything from sunshine, high wind to hail .I’m glad you both gained something from it- other than frostbite :) Mindfulness and Nature combined really is a wellbeing tonic! Great article and pics...

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