Practical Tips for Stress Management 3-Go on a “Presence Walk”

Neill Neill, Ph.D.

walking for presence with treesAfter supplying your body with oxygen and water, you need "presence" for good stress management. The best practice I have ever found for getting present and then staying present for more of your day is a special kind of walk. I call it the "presence walk." It could turn out to be one of the most important tools in your mental health arsenal.

The presence walk is mechanically the same as any other walk; what is different is what you do with your mind while walking.

You have probably heard lots of different expressions about the importance of being present; for example, "Be here now!" "The point of power is in the present." But do you really understand why presence is so important?

The simple answer is that there is no trauma in the present. When we think of trauma we think of something bad that happened in the past. In other words our minds go out of present time and into the past. When we worry about something stressful or even traumatic that might happen in the future, our minds leave the present and move into the future.

Right now you are having a coffee. If you are feeling overwhelmed, it is because your mind on all the things that you have to get done– the future.

So to get your mind off past stresses or worries about the future, here is an exercise that I guarantee will bring you into the present. I’ve been using it personally for twenty years.

The Presence Walk

Go for a walk of at least 20 minutes. Walk where there are trees if you can. Trees are good because they are big and they are alive. If there are no trees were you live, try to walk where there are other live objects, the bigger the better. Large cacti will work, for example. But use whatever you can.

As you walk let your eyes focus on an individual tree as you approach it. Take in its size, its shape, its color, its texture, and any sounds or smells that come from it. Do not name it; just observe it. When you have it– it should take three or four seconds — let your eyes move to another tree and do the same thing, and then do it again, and again.

Always pick a tree far enough ahead that you never have to break your pace to finish taking it in.

If you continue this for 20 minutes, you will be fully present. The more often you practice the presence walk the more ease you will have in getting into a present time. And besides, you get all the benefits of good walk.

Getting present is key to good stress management. It is important in avoiding the buildup of chronic stress. The presence walk is a basic mental health tool, so use it often.

Psychologist Dr. Neill Neill maintains an active practice on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. He focuses on healthy relationships and life after addictions. He is the author of Living with a Functioning Alcoholic – A Woman’s Survival Guide.

Happiness and Accepting the Flow of Life

By Neill Neill, Ph.D.

The ability to accept the flow of life without judgment is one of the secret ingredients to [tag-cat]happiness[/tag-cat]. Acceptance does not mean that you have to like what you see, but denying reality never brings happiness to you or your community.

One of the realities we all need to practice accepting is that each generation is a little different from the generations that preceded it. The process is the same in every culture, no matter how much those in charge would like it to be otherwise. My stories below are from my own culture; make up your own if you are from a different culture

I am disappointed when I see or hear of someone being unable to accept the normal behaviour of a generation behind them. Then I get really irked when an establishment or service provider or government official goes along with the intolerance.

Read more

Why Labeling Your Child Can Sabotage Him for a Lifetime

By Neill Neill, Registered Psychologist 

Kevin at More4kids posted an important piece about the fact that labeling children or calling them demeaning names can do long-term damage to them. He gives some good parenting advice on corrective action if you do slip up. If you have children or grandchildren, or plan to, do check out "Parenting and How Labeling Your Child Can Be Destructive" It’s basic [tag-ice]child psychology[/tag-ice].

However, do you know why the damage can be so fast and long-lasting?

It has to do with the way children learn. From about age three to age nine or ten, children’s brainwaves look like the brainwaves of an adult under hypnosis. When you say something to a child in that age range, it is taken in instantly and without question. The child has just accepted a "truth." These truths are called "introjects."

Parental pronouncements are swallowed whole and become part of the child’s view of the world. This childhood ability allows the child to learn huge quantities of information, attitudes and values without even thinking about it.

If you say "The car won’t start unless your seatbelt is fastened," that’s the truth, until he starts figuring things out around age ten. However, if you tell a child he’s stupid or he won’t amount to anything, that’s also the truth, but that truth could stay permanently lodged in his belief system.

So be very careful you don’t use labels which could sabotage your child for a lifetime.

Thank you, Kevin, for your timely [tag-cat]parenting[/tag-cat] article.


The Functioning Alcoholic and Memory Loss

functioning alcoholicAnyone who abuses alcohol long enough or heavily enough eventually will have problems with memory. The functioning alcoholic will have memory problems. His memory problems are simply less severe than those of the skid-row alcoholic.

Read more