Mind yourself: how getting out of the digital product studio changed my outlook




I had been with Neverbland for a little over six months when I first heard about the annual mindfulness walk. The concept of a mindfulness walk was new to me. I’ve only ever walked with purpose – like walking the dog, walking to the shops, walking to reach a distance goal, walking to achieve something. But walking to promote mindfulness? I’ve got to admit that I was a tad sceptical.

I did a quick google. Turns out that walking meditation is pretty popular. Rooted in Buddhism, walking meditation is used to promote feelings of groundedness, serenity and balance. As well as mental benefits, walking meditation encourages blood flow, improves digestion and even improves blood sugar levels. Mediation is one of the key techniques that influenced and contributed to the concept of mindfulness as we know it today.

Mind Over Mountains is a company dedicated to transforming people’s mental well-being through immersive nature walks and mindful guidance. The walks are led by a team of experienced coaches, counsellors and mountain leaders to ensure everyone’s physical safety as well as provide support and advice.

The importance of mental well-being in the workplace is rising high on the agenda. According to the Mental Health Foundation, almost 15% of people experience mental health problems in the workplace. 12.7% of all sickness absence days taken in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions.

Better mental health support in the workplace could save UK businesses up to £8 billion a year, considering that stress was responsible for 54% of all working days lost in 2018/19. Mind Over Mountains aims to change the narrative surrounding mental health in the workplace and get us to talk more openly about our mental health with our colleagues.

These expeditions range from short daytime wanders through the wilderness to two-day retreats. Neverland’s excursion was a one-day guided hill walk with coaching, counselling and guided mindfulness from our qualified practitioners. A world very distant from a digital product studio like Neverbland.

Despite knowing all of that good info, I still found myself with some lingering anxiety before the day.

A few years back I sustained a pretty hefty injury to my knee during a rugby game. A ruptured ligament and a lot of physio later, it’s pretty unproblematic in my day-to-day life, but my knee twinged at the prospect of doing a hardcore hike.

My fellow Neverblanders are an athletic bunch. Every week I’m regaled with stories from someone’s latest mountain expedition, marathon run or cycling tour. Myself, on the other hand, have little more than a mildly eventful pub trip to debrief on a Monday morning.

Physical ability aside, it’s always nerve-wracking to put yourself in a vulnerable position with people you don’t know very well. When it comes to my own mental well-being I’m somewhat of an open book, but there’s always a niggling fear of being judged a little.

Then we found out what walk we would be doing – 8 miles up Ivinghoe beacon in a pretty toasty 27C. Great. I had done that walk once before for my DoE award about a decade ago when I was much younger and much fitter. I don’t think sweating whilst walking up fairly steep inclines would have been my choice to promote a better state of mind, but I’d already agreed.

I think at first thought I had focused on the walking part of the day, but the mindfulness element pleasantly surprised me.

Not only was the walk a long overdue opportunity to mingle with some of the remote team I hadn’t met, but it was also a chance to get in tune with ourselves. It’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle and daily life and lose focus on what truly matters.

One of the first things iterated by the coaches was that our group was officially a judgment-free zone. The coaches created a safe space within our group, a space where everyone can share without anxiety, and listen without judgment.

The mindfulness exercises varied in subject and length, from breathing exercises to simple nature meditation. My favourite mindful exercise was introduced just as we embarked on the descent from the peak of Ivinghoe Beacon. Our coach had us use the stunning view over the Buckinghamshire countryside to visualise our future selves. The near distance was an image of ourselves in 6 months, the mid-distance was us in two years and the far distance was in the distant future. We were asked to feel what we would be feeling.

I’m not one of those people with a five-year plan, the concept stresses me out immeasurably, but this visualisation helped to see what the future might look like for me. For me, who is at somewhat of a crucial but chaotic life moment right now, visualising a future stable, fulfilled and content version of myself was great.

“Mindfulness is the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally,” says Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator of the research-backed stress-reduction program Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). “And then I sometimes add, in the service of self-understanding and wisdom.”

The tagline of mind over mountains is ‘restoring mental health naturally’. It’s the restorative quality of this walk that was the most valuable. I started the walk with life and my mind feeling off-kilter and left feeling rebalanced. Mind Over Mountains believes that spending time outdoors is the most powerful intervention to build resilience and positive well-being, and now I can’t help but agree.

To embark on your own journey to mindfulness, check out Mind Over Mountains.

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