My name is Ian, and I’m a WALKaholic. I’m in recovery, and I have been clean for nearly a week. My transformation is slow, and I am truly a work in progress; perhaps you can relate to my situation.
My problem is I’m a natural explorer with an inner whisper that tells me to keep searching, to wander off into nature in order to feel good and evolve my conscious awareness. I wake up excited about where to walk next, and I love the beauty of nature. I imagine unexplored woodland pathways and constantly seek new routes on google maps for intellectual stimulation. As soon as I sit down and try to watch X-Factor or the news my feet start itching to get back into a pair of well-worn walking boots and hit the tracks and roads less traveled. I often prioritise a walk over the “Rat Race”, watching TV, Social Media, surfing the internet and other important responsibilities, and for this, I am truly sorry.
It was difficult, at first, to acknowledge my affliction, because like many WALKaholics, I really love and enjoy the walks I go on. Only recently did I take an honest look in the mirror to notice that by walking in nature I was missing out on “Rush Hour” traffic jams, a stressful day in the office with telephones ringing and demands on my time and energy. I was also missing out on all the bad news on TV and in the papers and listening to people gossiping and fear-mongering.
I share the following tips to help my fellow WALKaholics learn to get a grip and to help others not to fall into the same trap as me:
1. Stop focussing on the PRESENT
As a WALKaholic I was always in the present without a thought about the past and not a care for the future. I was totally absorbed into that moment, at one with myself and the natural world around me. Being mindful made it difficult, if not impossible, to dwell on past mistakes and feel guilty for what I had or hadn’t done days, weeks and years before. It also distracted me from worrying about future events and how to control them. Recently, I learned that if I got up and switched on the TV starting with the News programmes my breathing became less calm and relaxed and it became a lot easier to worry about future events. I’m taking baby steps and so far, so good.
2. Feel Guilty
As a man in my fifth decade I’m told I should be feeling far more guilt than I do. Walking mindfully in nature has robbed me of my guilt. How have I allowed myself to develop such a guilt-free life over the years? This is a big problem for WALKaholics. The solution is to start spending time with people who are experts in taking a “guilt trip” and see if they will let you tag along for their next ride.
3. Work Harder and Longer Hours
Here is a great little NLP/hypnotic technique: imagine what would happen if you lost your job because you didn’t work long hours and put in 110% “Twenty Four Seven”? Make the image bigger, brighter and bolder, then bring that image closer and make it really colourful. Next imagine what your family, friends and neighbours would think of you and say if you were unemployed and on benefit. Hear them say it and make it louder in quadraphonic surround sound. Notice how you feel and multiply the feeling 10 times, then 100 times. It takes a bit of practice so DON’T give up!
4. Don’t go on Holiday
I’ll admit, taking breaks and going on holiday have increased my addiction to walking. Don’t be fooled into thinking we all need to take time away from work and our busy lives to recharge and focus on other things. Avoid relishing time away from your workplace and resist the urge to enjoy the world and the people in your life. Sit down and identify ways to stop you succumbing to the call of nature. Cancel your holidays, send the family without you while you stay at home on the internet or watching TV. (See tip 5)
5. Eat Junk Food and Limit your Sleep
There have been days when I walked for hours, ate a healthy, nutritious meal, had a warm bath and then drifted off into a deep, peaceful sleep waking the next day fully rested and energised. As a result I continued to eat well, exercised regularly and spent quality time with my wife, children and friends. The best way to avoid this and change your addiction to walking is to eat processed food with high levels of sugar, salt and trans fats, then force yourself to stay awake at night watching TV or playing video games. If you find yourself nodding off, just order in a takeaway pizza or Chinese meal and go online. Beer, sugary drinks and large glasses of wine are an excellent way to stop you waking up the next day with a craving to go walking in nature.
6. Social Media & Technology
If all else fails you can always take your phone/tablet with you when you are in the natural environment and may feel compelled to walk mindfully. It is possible walk in nature and be totally unaware of what is going on around you. The added bonus is you can avoid all the health benefits associated with walking mindfully in nature too. Just keep your nose buried in your phone or tablet. It might take a bit of practice and you may bump into things at first. You might even take a wrong turn now and again, but don’t worry, if you keep at it, before long you can be so engrossed in the “online world” that the real world simply disappears.
…enjoy the journey!
Ian Banyard is a Nature Connection Guide and author of Natural Mindfulness – your personal guide to the healing power of nature connection. He is passionate about exploring nature and empowering people. Ian combines a wealth of knowledge and experience from his personal and corporate life with intuitive and instinctive insights from his own inner journey, to guide others.
Ian lives in Gloucestershire, UK where he guides Natural Mindfulness Walks and provides coaching, courses, gatherings and retreats, for others who want to deepen their connection with nature and their true nature.
To attend a Natural Mindfulness Walk or event, visit Natural Mindfulness Walks
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