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Walking With Butterflies: The Power of The Gratitude Walk

“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking,” Friedrich Nietzche

Each morning I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from my worries. I walk myself into new ideas, creative solutions and immense gratitude for what I have. With each step I feel empowered and appreciative. It's quite something, it really is.

I've walked this walk for ten years now but it's transformed from a regular gentle stroll with the dog through the countryside into a walk where I'd voice affirmations (which have mostly come true) into the daily gratitude walk that it has now become – an opportunity to flourish. I realised that I rarely had the time or inclination to write a list of stuff I was grateful for before going to bed, as is advised by many a guru. I was simply too tired by then. I wanted to make time to do this 30 minute walk every day and so I did. Now, with my gratitude notebook placed firmly in my pocket, I venture out each morning and, midway along the walk, jot down those gratitude statements and (if nobody is around) I say them out loud. I thank the universe. And I feel that gratitude deep inside. It's a powerful, emotional and liberating feeling. And one of those things that I express gratitude for is this place.

I love this place I walk in. I am in actual love with this village. I turn the corner and take it all in: the lane stretching out before me, winding down towards the village, lined with wildflower hedgerows, meandering in between the golden corn and barley fields. I spot the church in the distance, and then that huge mass of sky just envelopes me. There is just soooo much SKY! 

And when that sky is true blue, oh my! Well that really does make my heart sing. As I near the end of my walk I have a great grin on my face. (Fortunate then that I rarely encounter any other human on my walk!) But I can't help it. Because life is amazing! Of course, life is also tough, harsh, unfair... but there is always something to be grateful for and this walk reminds me of that. Every single time.

The Power of Walking
Yonks ago Hippocrates said, “Walking is man's best medicine.” And he's not wrong. The health benefits of walking are well documented. Walking not only boosts stress-easing endorphins within just 10 minutes, it reduces fatique, increases circulation and heart health, improves blood pressure, burns more fat than jogging and even reduces glaucoma and alzheimers risk.

Walking also empowers you to open your mind. As I walk I experience this wondrous realisation that all shall be well, that everything (good or bad) happens for a reason and that either way it's a win-win; i.e. even if everything doesn't work out precisely as you wish it to (and, let's face it, life is life and as such, sh1t happens) you'll still benefit in some way from being thrown a curveball or obstacle to navigate round. You'll learn a vital lesson you needed to learn; you'll take a different path that is actually better for you than the one you were on; you'll re-assess and make a change, or you'll grow stronger as a person and appreciate what you were striving for even more when you get there, because you will get there, as long as you believe.

Walking fundamentally bolsters that belief, it crystalises your vision. It takes you on a path to your own kind of enlightenment, whether that's figuring out whether you should do this or that, or realising that it's actually ok to feel the way you do about something or stumbling into revolutionary thoughts that will change your life for the better. Whatever, this path to enlightenment only comes via the gratitude walk.

During this walk you are giving yourself something incredibly valuable that many don't or can't give themselves – TIME! Time to just think. Time to just feel. Walking gives you essential breathing space that juggling and multi-tasking in modern day life takes away. Walking switches off your autopilot so you can just feel alive, be more mindful of your surroundings and ponder whatever it is you wish to ponder about. Within just 10 minutes you feel less stressed. Then you start to notice more, connect more, and become more appreciative.

I've devoted a whole chapter of my book – The Flourish Handbook – to the importance (and power) of gratitude, as well as an entire chapter to mindfulness, the process of noticing more and being in the moment. (You can buy the paperback here or buy the Kindle version here.)

Notice. Appreciate. Live!
As mindfulness expert, Mark Williams of BeMindful.com says, “Most of us find that we sleep-walk through life, and become immune to life's riches.” Actual proper walking wakes you up from sleep-walking, as long as you relish it and allow yourself the time to truly experience it.

How To Walk :-)

  1. Walk alone if possible (you can't think if you're chatting to a friend).
  2. Find a peaceful location to walk in with minimal distractions or people around. The more literal space you have, the more breathing space you'll have and the more freeing the walk will be.
  3. Take a notepad and pen so you can jot down a list of 10 things you are completely grateful for. Feel that gratitude then walk on. Also jot down any ideas about projects to pursue or actions to take.
  4. Take a deep breath in for five and out for five and notice your surroundings. Keep your head up as you walk. Look around you, breath it all in, then let those creative thoughts flow.
  5. Create the time to walk regularly. Just 15 minutes per day or even every other day will have a positive impact on your life. This could be straight after the school run or before your other half gets out of bed; it could be as soon as the little ones are asleep or during your lunch break.

Every single time I walk my own gratitude walk I return energised, revitalised and kind of spiritualised. It makes me want to get on with things – to write stuff, make a focused list, pick up the phone, do what essentially needs to be done in order to make wonderful stuff happen! It's powerful. Yep! Walking feeds the soul, the body and the mind.

Some say that angels whisper to you when you walk. I sometimes feels like doors open, opportunities show themselves, ideas formulate... certainly, with each step there is progress. As Barack Obama says, “If you're walking down the right path and you're willing to keep walking, eventually you'll make progress.” Of course Mr Obama is speaking metaphorically but, quite literally, if you go on a walk today and focus on both what you are grateful for and what you strive for, you will make progress and, as you do head towards your desired destination, you'll enjoy the journey all the more because you appreciate what you already have. Bonus!

Walking with the butterflies in the sunshine under the blue sky. There really is nothing quite like it. Even walking in the rain has a positive effect. It's liberational, emotional, powerful. If you make just ONE change to your life from this day onward, make time to go on a regular gratitude walk. In doing so, you'll appreciate now more and step into your future feeling blessed and truly alive.

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