Mindfulness Walks are good for the body and soul

Five Rivers MetroParks Mindfulness Walks are short, easy walks inviting people to stop and engage in a variety of simple breathing and meditation activities - Debbie Juniewicz
Five Rivers MetroParks Mindfulness Walks are short, easy walks inviting people to stop and engage in a variety of simple breathing and meditation activities - Debbie Juniewicz

Sunshine, blue skies and scenic views as far as the eye can see – spending time in nature can be both invigorating and relaxing.

Five Rivers MetroParks is making it even easier to destress in the great outdoors by establishing Mindfulness Walks at Eastwood, Huffman, Possum Creek and Sunrise MetroParks. Visitors will find signage along the short, designated walks inviting them to stop and engage in a variety of simple meditation activities. From slow, intentional breathing to gratitude contemplation, the mindfulness activities were developed with input from Dayton Children’s and Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services.

Sunrise MetroPark is one of four parks with newly-designated Mindfulness Walks. CONTRIBUTED/DEBBIE JUNIEWICZ
Sunrise MetroPark is one of four parks with newly-designated Mindfulness Walks. CONTRIBUTED/DEBBIE JUNIEWICZ

“As COVID-19 came about last year it created discussions about what we could do that would be helpful and impactful for the community; The anticipation to support mental and physical health was high on the list,” said Amy Dingle, Five Rivers MetroParks director of outdoor connections. “Knowing the level of stress that everyone was under with navigating all the disruptions from COVID-19, we wanted to provide a safe place for people to spend time outdoors doing intentional activities to work on their self-care.

“We wanted to launch this during Mental Health Awareness Month to help elevate the importance of intentional exercises and self-care,” she said.

Research indicates that spending as little as 20 minutes a day immersed in nature significantly reduces stress. It can also improve sleep quality and focus, enhance overall mood and increase relaxation. Time spent in nature can also enhance cognitive abilities including memory, problem solving and creativity. Spending time in nature on a regular basis can also have a positive impact on chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

“Spending time in the outdoors has so many benefits and placing these in specific locations provides an intentional space to help the public get outdoors to work on their mental and physical health,” Dingle said. “It is our hope that people prioritize the time for themselves to get outdoors in nature – take a walk and allow themselves to be in the present moment.”

While the signage is currently temporary, a positive public response could lead to permanent installations.

“We hope people will think through the activities and contemplate how they are feeling and what they are experiencing around them with all five senses,” Dingle said. “Coming into the activities with gratitude for anything happening in that moment in time can help them accept the experience and hopefully continue to practice healthy behaviors.”

The new Mindfulness Walks provide a self-guided opportunity to help people learn how to use meditation tools. CONTRIBUTED/DEBBIE JUNIEWICZ
The new Mindfulness Walks provide a self-guided opportunity to help people learn how to use meditation tools. CONTRIBUTED/DEBBIE JUNIEWICZ

Five Rivers MetroParks Mindfulness Walks

Eastwood MetroPark

1385 Harshman Road (Park entrance) or 4349 Springfield St.

  • Walk on the natural surface trail along the perimeter of the lagoon.
  • Near the Springfield Street entrance, take the stone bridges to the islands in the lagoon.
  • While at the park, you can also walk the brown trail through the prairie and the blue trail along the Mad River – which is a portion of the Buckeye Trail and North Country National Scenic Trail – as well as the paved Mad River Trail.

Huffman MetroPark

4439 Lower Valley Pike

  • Park near the overlook shelter and take the short natural surface trail toward Huffman Dam.
  • Continue across the dam for scenic views and a connection with the paved Mad River Trail.
  • If Huffman Lake isn’t flooded, you can hike natural surface trails along the lake and Mad River.

Possum Creek MetroPark

4790 Frytown Road

  • Park in the Argonne Forest lot, the first right-hand turn after you enter Possum Creek.
  • Hike the 1.5-mile pink trail and/or the 1-mile blue trail, both of which can be accessed from the parking lot.
  • Possum Creek is home to a robust network of natural surface trails, fishing ponds, horseback riding trails, a small farm and other amenities that allow you to explore the outdoors.

Sunrise MetroPark

50 N. Edwin C. Moses Blvd.

  • This linear park, located along the west bank of the Great Miami River, offers great views of the downtown skyline.
  • Look for the Mindfulness Walk signage near the park benches and along the steps leading down to the river.
  • Continue your walk along the paved Great Miami River and Wolf Creek trails.

Contact this contributing writer at djuniewicz@gmail.com.

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