Let yourself be carried away by an olfactory walk to improve your mood and reduce your stress levels. Walking is one of the best forms of exercise you can do at any age.
It’s low-impact and requires no equipment apart from a reliable pair of sneakers. As a bonus, it lets you explore the world around you. However, therapists suggest not only looking at the sights, hearing the sounds and feeling the weather when you go for a walk, but also stopping and smelling the roses and everything else around you. An “olfactory walk” can improve your mood and reduce your stress levels. Here’s how to take one.
An “olfactory walk” is pretty much exactly what it sounds like – a walk where you engage with the scents of the world. According to clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD, author of The Joy of Fear, an “olfactory walk is a mindfulness experience focused on the sense of olfaction.” By tuning our attention to specific sensory inputs, such as smells in our environment, we naturally focus on the present. This allows us to detach ourselves from the racing mind and focus on the different smells in our environment.
To take an olfactory stroll, it’s not enough to concentrate on the journey from point A to point B. The idea is to immerse yourself in your surroundings. As Abbey Sangmeister, LPC, certified clinical supervisor and psychotherapist, explains, olfactory walks encourage us to slow down and have a purpose in this slow, patient walk.
If you struggle with traditional meditation, an olfactory walk can serve as an active form of the practice. Mental health counselor Matthew Schubert suggests using exercise for meditation. “Get outside, move around, be present in the moment and smell the roses!” he says. Focusing on the present moment during an olfactory walk can reduce stress and anxiety. By naturally diverting our attention from life’s stressors and challenges, we can benefit from the positive effects of walking.
Our brains are influenced by smells because of the connection between the olfactory system and the limbic system. Taking a deep breath of the air around us can have unsuspected benefits for our mind, body and soul. Olfactory walks are important for our subconscious, which creates our internal representation of the world. Our decision-making, behavior and emotions are all impacted and influenced by the smells that surround us.
To enjoy the benefits of an olfactory walk, simply step outside. You don’t have to head for greener pastures to make the most of your experience. You can take a walk anywhere, whether it’s the beach, the city or the woods. Your walk can be as short or as long as you like. As you walk, close your eyes and ears, allowing you to concentrate on your sense of smell. At first, this may seem boring, but the more you practice, the more you’ll discover an incredible variety of scents just waiting to be noticed.
During the olfactory walk, you’ll be exposed to different scents, some pleasant, some less so. It’s important to open your mind and appreciate all the smells, without judgment. The more you immerse yourself in the experience, the more you’ll appreciate the gift of your senses and the world around you.
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