Archives for category: Mindfulness in the park

Talking to a therapist, going for a run and practising mindfulness meditation are all well-established ways to deal with emotional trauma. However, these three practices typically exist in isolation from each other. Someone dealing with emotional pain might see a therapist to talk about the relationships in their life, go to the gym to exercise their body, and download a podcast on meditation.

Psychotherapist William Pullen has developed a new form of therapy entitled Dynamic Running Therapy to fuse these practices together. He has published a book called Run for your Life to explain this new method. I spoke to William to find out more…

Kate: What exactly is Dynamic Running Therapy?

William: DRT is a fusion of mindfulness, running and regular talk therapy. Like most therapy it is open-ended: there is no set limit on how long the therapy will last.  One of the things I try to avoid in my work is striving – I think there is already so much of that in the world. With DRT, we see what happens and when it happens. The practice is client-led: they decide when to run or sit or walk. This is important as the body is highly informative: it can tell us about what’s going on deep inside. I look out for changes in movement such as acceleration or slowing down. Sometimes a client’s stance helps me to see how they address the world or a particular topic.

Kate: Who would benefit from this kind of therapy?

William: DRT can be great for people suffering from depression, a debilitating condition that can be very difficult to shift. The client often feels helpless and angry. Taking proactive action, through running and so on, helps the patient to feel more in control. Clients with anxiety can benefit a great deal from the mindfulness aspect of the therapy: again, it is an opportunity to take proactive steps to manage their condition. Clients with eating disorders should speak to their doctor before embarking on DRT, as the exercise programme may not be appropriate.

Kate: Why should someone with depression or anxiety try DRT rather than simply talking to a therapist? 

William: Because DRT uses the body, a greater sense of commitment and progress is often experienced. There is a strong sense of  both engagement and progress. Of course the office and the park offer different benefits, and then there are the peculiarities of the client to take account for. DRT isn’t for everyone, but in my experience DRT is more engaging – the movement involves greater investment and has a more identifiable sense of accomplishment. But as ever, its all down to what the client is comfortable with.

Kate: Tell me about your book – is it designed to be used alongside therapy? Or can it replace therapy? (I’m aware that many people can’t afford to see a therapist.)

William: “Run for your Life” is not for use alongside a talking therapy. The book offers programmes for various conditions, including a programme for running with your kids and getting closer to them, and ideas for establishing a mindful running or walking practice.

For someone with a common mental health condition, DRT is an excellent choice – it’s very practical and you can do it anywhere. It’s also a great way to establish a mindful running or walking practice, which offers a myriad of health benefits and can be continued once the patient has recovered from their condition. Mindful running is enjoyable and can be a lifelong practice, not just a short-term solution for someone dealing with a crisis.

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In English culture, owning your own house and garden is a big deal. We don’t always pay enough attention to the beautiful green spaces that anyone can visit – regardless of their income, career, age or social status.

Image by Anne Marie Briscombe

Avenue of Plane Trees, Green Park, by Anne Marie Briscombe

There are eight Royal Parks in London: together, they make up 5,000 acres of opportunity for fresh air, picnics, exercise, getting in touch with nature and, of course, mindfulness practice.

Pelican in the sun, St. James's Park, by Anne Marie Briscombe

Pelican in the sun, St. James’s Park, by Anne Marie Briscombe

The Royal Parks press office gave me permission to share these excellent images of the parks: in this post I’m sharing spring and summertime images from Green Park, St. James’s Park and Hyde Park, in the next post I’ll share images from Regents Park and Greenwich Park.

The parks might not look quite this picturesque every day, but they definitely beat spending your lunch break sitting hunched over a computer, gobbling a Pret a Manger sandwich 🙂

Boating on the serpentine, Hyde Park, by Indusfoto Ltd

Boating on the serpentine, Hyde Park, by Indusfoto Ltd

The Royal Parks are also ideal for trying out a walking meditation practice. To do a walking meditation practice, you simply need to devote your full attention to your present experience whilst walking. Notice the soles of your shoes as they make contact with the earth, notice any sensations in the body, any external sounds in the park, the shapes and colours of the trees, water and animals. Every time your mind wanders away to past or future thoughts, take it back to your present experience. That’s it – nothing too complicated!

Horse Guard's Parade, St. James's Park, by Indusfoto Ltd

Horse Guard’s Parade, St. James’s Park, by Indusfoto Ltd

I recently came across the following advice for walking meditation by Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh:

“In our daily lives, we usually feel pressured to move ahead. We have to hurry. We seldom ask ourselves where it is that we must hurry to.

When you practice walking meditation, you go for a stroll. You have no purpose or direction in space or time. The purpose of walking meditation is walking meditation itself. Going is important, not arriving. Walking meditation is not a means to an end; it is an end. Each step is life; each step is peace and joy. That is why we don’t have to hurry. That is why we slow down.”

Would be great to see rush hour tube travellers adopt this attitude!