If you are looking for fun ways to make walking more interesting, change it up a little. The Walking is Awesome bingo card is for you.
(Note: This blog was first released as a podcast if you'd prefer to listen. Although I've tidied up some of the wording, I did use the transcription form the podcast to create this blog. Now that I've explained why some of the wording may seem a little casual, let's dive in.)
Walking can see like the world's dullest form of activity. You know it's good for you, just like eating vegetables, brushing your teeth and making your bed. I get it, I'm not a runner, or bushwalker, or in anyway athletic. Which leaves walking by the process of elimination. And yes you can walk to improve mental health and boost mood, but the challenge remains about how to make walking more engaging a so that you want to keep doing it. A sustainable habit needs to be practical, doable and yes inherently motivating - ie enjoyable. Knowing that for me it meant I needed to be able to walk out the door, not drive to a spot and walk, I explored various ways of making the everyday route I walk something I looked forward to.
Therefore you'll see a range of activities on the Walking is Awesome Bingo Card. There are some things that make doing this bingo card a little bit different. Yes, there are elements of counting steps and measuring length of time, but also some strategies that you might think, why would I be doing that?
And I'm going to tell you why, because the key components of walking and creating a habit are to do with enjoying the process, right?
How to enjoy walking
So many people will say, oh, I know I should walk, or, I haven't got time for walk or walking is so boring, and I get it. Life can be super chaotic, and it takes time to walk. The difference between going for a five K run and going for a five K walk is quite significant. Mind you, the last time I went for a five K run, it probably took me about as long as a 5K walk. I'm not a natural runner, so I stick to the walking, but it's like I have to walk for like an hour a day.
I mean, I haven't got an hour in the day. I don't want to walk for an hour in the day. It's boring.
So, we break it up.
I don't walk an hour at a time. I walk roughly an hour all up, but it's spaced, right?
You don't have to do it all at once.
The ideas I have in this bingo card are bite-sized. Some of them are little and they're based on, yes, movement, but there is a strong emphasis on connection. There's suggestions about playing with and managing your discomfort and anxiety. And there's quite a few mindful walking exercises, including connecting with your thoughts, feelings and experiences and connecting with your environment, connecting with your neighbourhood, connecting with yourself.
So, let's look more closely at a couple of the things.
Start with 4000 steps.
I'm going to firstly talk through what's there. There's 25 different squares with a range of suggestions, and you can choose to do a square a day. You might do a couple of squares on a day over different walks. There might be some gaps between gaps, whichever. There's no timeline on this. So, the first one, walk 4,000 steps. 4,000 tends to be around half an hour, depending on how quickly you walk. It might take a bit longer; it might take you less time. And it's a real like first base. So, for me, my morning walk is roughly 4,000 steps, and then I'll do some more later.
Try walking alone.
So that's the next one on the card, walking by yourself.
For some people that's all they do. Walk by themselves. For others they walk with a partner or walk the kids to school, or they walk with other people. Because walking by yourself can be a significant anxiety hurdle to overcome. You may feel less safe walking by yourself. Notice, I don't put a time limit or a step limit around this. Whatever you can do. If you haven't walked by yourself before and that's a big obstacle, start by walking to the letter box. Or walk around the block, walk somewhere that feels quite safe for you to walk.
I don't mean walk in an isolated place. I do not recommend doing that.
How to connect with your environment
Take a photo of something red, which is square number three. This is a practice of tuning into your environment, connecting with what's around you and narrowing your focus to one thing. Once you start thinking about something, you will see it everywhere. This phenomenon, known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, or selective attention bias, occurs when you start to become more aware of something you hadn’t noticed before.
I'm curious, when you make the decision to look for red, what you notice that you haven't noticed before. You know whether you are noticing all these red things around you or not. So have a play with that. See what happens.
How to practice gratitude when walking
Think about what you're grateful for. Hmm. We're tapping into gratitude, right? So, gratitude is one of the things associated with leading a more fulfilling, happier life. You don't, we talk about gratitude journals and that's wonderful. They're there, you can use them, but you can also just think it. So, while you are walking, you are getting a, a double value. You know? So not only getting your physical exercise: you are practicing your mental health skills.
You may choose to focus on one thing you're grateful for and think quite deeply about that. It might be a person or an experience or an ability that you have, or you might choose to go through a list. A quick tip here is to be as specific as possible. We can be grateful for being alive, but that kind of covers a lot, doesn't it? what within that are you specifically grateful for? Are you grateful for being able to be awake when the sun rises? And to take the time to observe the process of this going on? Are you grateful that you are wearing a scarf that someone knitted you because it's cold outside? And this is keeping your neck on?
Are you grateful that your body can move you freely without pain? Or are you grateful that you can still move with pain? Make it as specific to you as possible.
How to be outrageous on a walk
And the last one on this line is wear something outrageous and you're like, okay, so we're tapping into anxiety. Here we are tapping into a social fear that people are going to look at you and they're going to think you're ridiculous. A, for walking; B for walking by yourself; C for I'm too old to be doing this, or I'm too unfit or I'm too whatever. So, if you are experiencing social phobia, if you are experiencing fear of judgment, this might be a box you are not going to tick. Taking your anxiety for a walk is difficult. I get it, it's something I support clients with on a regular basis.
I encourage you though, to think about that outrageousness as a personal challenge. And for you, outrageousness might be wearing two different types of socks or shoes. I've done that before. Come back from a walk, looked at my feet, realized I was wearing a right sneaker from one pair of shoes and a left sneaker from another. Mm-Hmm.
Outrageous. Outrageous without intentionally being outrageous. Think about what your outrageous outrageousness could be. On another line I've got wear a hat. It can be any sort of hat. Okay, so I don't know what I'm going to wear yet for something outrageous. Approach this task with a sense of fun, This homage of wearing something outrageous is not about tipping you into extreme social discomfort, but encouraging a bit of prodding and challenging inherent fear of social judgement.
I don't expect you to walk out there in a bikini, if you're not comfortable with that, however, I'm curious about where you'd like to take it and what you'd like to do it. But, if you're saying, no, that's just really weird. I'm not doing that, that's okay, the beauty about Bingo is you only need to complete one line.
Other creative ways to make walking more enjoyable
Taking a selfie in front of a tree, or walk with a family member may or may not be challenging. Walk five days in a row. Doesn't matter for how long or how far. practice journaling after walking. What comes up?
Walking gives you the opportunity to breathe, to pause, to make space in your day. We know that regular movement helps with clarity and productivity. And if you can, have a break every so often for physical health benefits. Try moving after 30 minutes of sitting still. Five minutes of movement and then we can come back and refocus, which you can try.
Everyone's a little bit different. I encourage you to experiment about when that peak break for you is going to be. Taking a break not only means you move your body, but you need breaks to help you clear your mind and provide space for dynamic calm, giving yourself the opportunity to reset your physiology and kickstart creativity and clarity.
I'll frequently make notes - dictate to myself when I'm walking because the rhythm and the movement and all of a sudden ideas rush in, thoughts rush in. It's like, oh, here we go. Because it's what your mind likes to do. It likes to just sit there and cogitate in the background. And then where there's some space and clarity it goes, oh, I can answer all those questions. Now I've got some ideas for now. How about you do this? And you're like, Oh, I'm walking. I have no pen or paper! So, the phone comes in very handy.
So, a couple more. Not going through the whole 25 of them, if you're interested, download it. Have a look, do the challenge.
Encourage creativity by letting your mind wonder. This naturally leads into doing the journaling, in that we are not actively problem solving. We're not actively being grateful. We're not actively doing anything but giving over into our mind.
If doing this causes you distress due to an underlying mental health condition, well then don't, okay? Get some help. Speak to your psychologist, make an appointment. Do whatever is going to help you, but perhaps don't choose that one.
What’s best to wear walking shoes or sneakers?
I've got my walking shoes. And I'll tell you why. I've walked for many years. I've had some lulls and then I've come back to it. And walking without a doubt is a necessary baseline for my mental and physical health. Without it, I ache. I ache both in my joints and I ache in my heart. It's necessary for me to walk. And I usually just wear sneakers. The ones that fit me best, they're the ones that have helped my knees. They're so comfortable. The problem with sneakers is you wear through them quickly and they get wet.
And walking in wet feet, if you can avoid it, is something I really recommend. So, I decided I would bite the bullet and buy some proper light walking shoes and be water or the shower proof. So, if I step in puddle, I don't automatically get soaking wet. If it's showering raining a bit, I don't get wet at all. And I have a thicker tread. So, they're lasting me a long time and they're giving me more grip.
The other day I almost fell down the back step because I slipped on a mat. After I slipped, I realized I was wearing sneakers, and my old sneakers didn't have the tread. And I've become so used to the tread. So, it's a safety thing. If you have the resources, look at investing in some walking shoes; my walking shoes were cheaper than my sneakers.
So that gives you a little bit of an overview of the Walking is Awesome Bingo card. If you're up for a challenge download it. Do something different. Put a bit pep in your step. That's what we are doing.
We are moving, walking from boring to awesome. And it is a vehicle whereby you can practice almost any mental health strategy you can think of.
It can help combat loneliness, it can help combat anxiety, it can help combat ah, clarity. It can help you with clarity of thinking, reduce the overwhelm that happens, okay?. And you know what I'm going to do after I finish this? I'm going for a walk because I'm due for one.
If you've downloaded your Bingo Card and are ready for more, or would like to start with some individual support you can make an appointment, or go on the waiting list for the soon to be released online Walking is Awesome program.
* These articles are provided by Kim Ross, Psychologist for general information and education . They are not designed to be used for therapy.. If you are experiencing stress please contact your GP or mental health professional.
Kim Ross is an Online Psychologist and Founder of Positive Young Minds and Private Practice Sustainability.