I talk honestly and openly about my experiences with mental illness, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome through the lens of feminism, fat acceptance and process theology. I also do recipe and book reviews. My mission is to spread the message that hope is always real for a better life, despite living in a world that is often very harsh.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

HAWMC #9 Wordless Wednesday - Beauty Walks: A New, More Mindful Approach to Exercise

It's time for WEGO Health's April Health Activist Writer's Monthly Challenge! Today is number nine (I will be participating sporadically...)  We all know a picture is worth a 1,000 words. Post/share a picture that relays a message or story to the viewer.

"Walking is a great way to integrate mindfulness into your everyday life and has been practiced as a meditative technique for thousands of years." by Headspace from Huffpost Lifestyle; Meditation in Action: Turn Your Walk Into A Mindful Moment
What do you think of when you think of the word, "exercise?"  Do you think of the numbers on an elliptical machine telling you of how many calories you burned or of how many miles you walked?  That's what I used to think of, but those numbers caused me a lot of stress, obsession, and anxiety.  It got to the point where I stopped doing any exercise at all-going to the gym caused me stress and most exercise hurt my joints anyway.

And then I discovered mindfulness.


Now I like to exercise, but it's because I don't think of exercise in terms of numbers-specifically how many calories I need to burn, but how I can appreciate the world around me.  I like to go on walks outside and bring my camera and take pictures of the local flora, fauna, sculptures, and other art.  Nowadays a bunch of beautiful bright purple tulips is more likely to make me think of exercise:
 
Recently some of my friends went out walking at a nearby park and the sun gave out beautiful light and shadows as it was setting:
I have found that I much more motivated to walk when I think about it being an exercise in beauty and in being mindful in the art that is around me in nature and in the city.  Many times after my therapy appointment, I go to the Atlanta Beltline, which is nearby and walk for a little while.  What I like about the beltline is that it has a lot of art and shops nearby, so that while there is not as much nature, there is still a lot of beauty and interesting things to see.
Last Fall, I took some pictures of the trees changing colors at the Camp Creek Greenway Trail:
What I like about being mindful is that it is also about paying attention to your body.  I am much better about bringing water and a snack, like a granola bar or a banana with me than I used to be.  When my body says, "hydrate!" or "eat!," I listen and do so.  I no longer believe deprivation correlates with strength.  I instead believe strength correlates with how well I respond to what my body tells me-so if my joints are aching and are telling me to slow down or to turn back, I do and I do not consider myself weak, but congratulate myself for treating my body right.  I am happy that I enjoyed the time outside that I did and look forward to the next time I am outside.  Although my walks tend to be short, I try to not focus on the numerical value and instead focus on their positive, mindfulness value, which is immense, as ever since I have made that shift in my thinking, my stress level has gone down tons.  

I hope these pictures have brought you some beauty into your life.  More importantly, I hope that they have inspired you to think about exercise in a different, more peaceful and mindful way.

Link Love:

I take back my worthiness, my belonging in the world of beautiful and diverse beings. I live without apology for the straight lines and curves, living tissue, vulnerable heart that hold my living, breathing manifested story.
[…]
I will not confuse thinness for health.

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