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Notes from my bookshelf: Walking to your wellbeing Mindful Walking by Hugh O’Donavan


“You have certainly walked in many places but have you appreciated the benefits to your mind and body which walking has given you?”

As I write this I’ve been tallying up the days spent in lockdown and reflecting on what the experience of those days has been like so far. In all honesty it’s a complete mix. I’ve railed against the loss of my freedom to do and go as I please, and I’ve struggled to stabilise my emotions amongst so much uncertainty. But, I’ve also relished exploring my creativity again and enjoying daily walks with my sister. And, it’s the activity of walking that I’m convinced has helped me to succeed in (largely) finding some semblance of balance and equilibrium again.

So, given that the latest government advice for England is to be exercising outside as much as possible I thought this was the perfect time to share a new Notes from my Bookshelf with you. And, for this post I’ve chosen Hugh O’Donovan’s Mindful Walking in the hope it gives you some inspiration and ideas for your next walk.

“Mindful walking is the special place where mind, body, people and the natural environment come together. It is a place of wellbeing, a place where you feel alive.”

Why I’m reading it

My sister and I started calling our lockdown daily walks with each other our ‘sanity walks’, and whilst that began as a somewhat dark joke it made me wonder… I’ve always walked wherever I am, I meditate on walks sometimes, I dash around the block on a lunch break, I’ll walk over the fields near my house daily and have found these walks restorative, even medicinal especially after a difficult day or an anxious time. So, my curiosity was peaked. Was it just my personal experience or was there science and research behind the positive power and effects of walking on our minds and our moods.

Mindful Walking was given to me as a gift just before lockdown and it was perfect timing. Written by a psychologist I felt the book would be able to answer some of the questions I had about the connection between walking and mental wellbeing, and I was right.

“Mindful walking is about mindful movement. It is doing, while experiencing being.”

What it’s about

Mindful Walking is both a practical self-help guide and a deeper review of the connections found between our physical and mental selves.

O’Donovan includes practical mindfulness activities like meditation and building connection through talking to others as well as walking. All with the aim of supporting and improving physical as well as mental and emotional wellbeing.

One of the things I enjoyed most about Mindful Walking is the sheer volume and variety of references, quotes, anecdotes and ideas from other teachers that are jam-packed into the book. From Buddhist teachings to Jim Collins and Eckhart Tolle. You name it there’s an insightful quote or key idea of theirs shared and discussed. This means that whilst we have O’Donovan’s ideas and psychological focus flowing throughout the pages there are a myriad of other ideas and concepts included too.

My curiosity to delve deeper into the ideas expressed really increased and I realised this is a great book to introduce the ideas and activities of mindfulness and wellbeing, especially to those readers who may have heard all these buzzwords and references without knowing quite what they meant or how they could apply to them.

Another positive thing are the real-life stories that others have shared with O’Donovan that appear at regular intervals. It’s empowering to hear the positivity and honesty which people like Sarah and Adrian share their stories and experiences. It really brings home the power that practicing mindfulness can have on lives of people who are like you and me.

There are also lots of practical activities throughout the book, with tips and suggestions for what to do and how and where to begin. All are accessible and adaptable to different circumstances and because there’s a variety of suggestions if you don’t like one, there’ll be another you can try that could be the perfect fit for you.

All in all I felt this book was easy to read and is a great way to introduce new ideas and practices for everyday life. And, given that for many at the moment life is taking on a different rhythm this could be a wonderful opportunity to explore new ways of practicing mindfulness and helping keep ourselves physically healthy too.

“Mindful walking in any place can change you. It can lay before you a unique understanding of the self.”

Who’s it for

Absolutely everyone and anyone who has an interest in the psychology and power of how a physical act of walking can improve and enhance your wellbeing and positivity. Given the seriousness and anxiety of the current times, there’s nothing like a good walk to ease some of the tension caused by a global pandemic and to help us understand ourselves a little better in the process.

“This book has attempted to informally integrate the insights of psychology, positive psychology in particular, with the practice of mindful walking. Mind and body come together in that social world of relationships. Therein lies the value of mindful walking.”

Check out all my blog posts on Alcea’s blog and if you’ve enjoyed this Notes from my Bookshelf, check out my other posts in the series such as Madeline Miller’s Circe.

If you’ve got a recommendation for me to read and feature on Notes from my bookshelf let me know, email me at alceaconsulting@outlook.com

All the quotes in this post are from High O’Donovan’s Mindful Walking, Hachette, 2015 edition.

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