For many of us, The Great Trail is an outdoor gym – a place to improve our physical fitness while discovering Canada’s incredible landscapes. But did you know that the Trail also offers us an opportunity to take care of our mental health?
Activities like mindful walking in the outdoors can help free our minds from “mental clutter” and everyday stress. For some, it helps to instill a sense of inner calm; for others, it can offer solutions to problems that might have seemed daunting before.
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, governments are advising people to stay at home. However, public health authorities in Canada still recommend taking short walks, while maintaining a two-metre distance from others, near your home as a means of coping.
Discover how you can reap the benefits of mindful walking responsibly with these tips.
1. Choose the right Trail section for you
Mindful walking is about getting back to nature, but that doesn’t mean you have to retreat to the wilderness.
Since we all need to stay close to home and practice social distance, it’s best to choose a short, circular trail that’s near you. If you live in an urban area, don’t worry – the Trail passes through many of Canada’s cities. You’ll find it on Toronto’s Waterfront Trail, Montreal’s Lachine Canal and many other cities. Remember, 80% of Canadians live within 30 minutes of a Trail section!
To find out where you can access the Trail, visit our online map.
2. Check for updates from reliable sources
Before going outside, make sure to check for any updates from reliable government sources. While Canadians are still allowed to leave their homes, advice could change quickly. Visit the Government of Canada website, as well as the websites of your provincial government and municipality.
And don’t forget to wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before going out!
3. Take a break from tech
As tempting as it may be to tune into a Spotify playlist or your favourite podcast, take an opportunity to spend some time away from your devices – and especially social media and 24-hour news updates!
Consider putting your devices on vibrate for the duration for your walk.
4. Practice physical distancing
While a short break for some fresh air is good for us, remember your responsibility to those around you. As soon as you begin your walk, make sure to give other walkers space. It’s widely recommended that you keep a distance of at least two metres – that’s six feet – between you and others.
And remember, physical distancing doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to smile at passers-by!
5. Walk at a comfortable pace
Walk at a natural speed and pay attention to the rise and fall of your foot as you take each step. Don’t try to walk faster or slower – simply observe your steps as they are. Notice the feeling of breathing in and out, and try to come back to this feeling if your mind wanders off.
Place your hands where they feel most comfortable – at your sides, behind your back or on your belly.
While bringing your attention to the sensation of walking, be aware of what’s happening all around you, including traffic, other people or road signals.
6. Pause and be present
At various points along your Trail section of choice, take a break and spend a few minutes noticing the various sensations around you. Do you hear the wind blowing through trees, or the rush of a flowing river? Do you smell fragrant flowers, or fresh sea air? What colours can you see?
Take a mental note of everything you perceive during this short break before returning to your walk.
7. End with a moment of stillness
Once you’re ready to finish your walk, stand tall and still, pausing for another moment of awareness and peace.
8. Wash your hands!
This is essential! As soon as you get home, head to the washroom and wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. In addition to protecting your health, washing your hands is also an opportunity to practice mindfulness by observing all the sensations you feel during those 20 seconds.