Climbing as Mindfulness
Being in the moment
When people talk about mindfulness as being ‘in the moment’, it all seems rather straight forward and therefore easy to achieve – doesn’t it? But truly being in the moment can be much harder to achieve than one might think. But why? Well, probably without out us each realising, our mind, or should I say our attention, is in high demand – largely due to our 24/7 technologically-connected lives. Modern living is taking its toll and it’s making it difficult for us to switch off, find calm and be in the moment. And the evidence to support the belief that our lack of awareness of, or attention to, the present is a major cause of poor well-being that can negatively impact on our mental health.
So where does climbing come in?
Well, anyone who has climbed before – indoors or outdoors – will probably agree that when you are on the wall, working out your feet and hand placements, navigating a route, you tend to be pretty focused (for obvious reasons). Often time at the climbing centre flies by. You become more aware of your body: which muscles you are using (are getting tired), your breathing and level of sweat, which part of your feet or fingers you are using to gain grip and purchase. Very rarely, when on the wall, do you think about checking your phone or wondering what to buy from the supermarket for dinner. Some people describe this lack of attention to things other than the act of climbing itself as being ‘in the zone’ or ‘in flow’. Others call it a heightened state of ‘mindfulness’. They all pretty much mean the same thing, I think: being completely in the moment … consciously in the present.
So, with this in mind, it became more apparent to a colleague and myself at Derrymount – responsible for our Adventure School provision – that climbing might be a fantastic activity to help our students to not only develop their physical skills, overcome fears and barriers, develop self esteem through the effort and determination etc etc (and the list could go on for a long time) BUT the act of climbing could also (maybe?) have positive outcomes on mental health and well-being – if developed, deliberately, as a mindfulness exercise.
Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?
Anyway, it’s on a bit of a hunch and a ‘well we can at least try it’ attitude that prompted us to try and look into this a bit further. So, the plan …
In the second week in January 2020, we will be taking a group of young people on a weekly visit to Nottingham Climbing Centre where they will be introduced to climbing and receive a 1.5hr a week (for 7 weeks) period of instruction and opportunity to climb. We’ll encourage the students to be body aware, help them focus on the moment and try and gauge their thoughts, attitudes and awareness of themselves both before, during and at the end of the 7 weeks.
It’s going to interesting to see what impact climbing as mindfulness can have.
Thank you to Alpkit!
We are very grateful to the wonderful people at Alpkit for supporting our 7-week project. The Alpkit Foundation generously donated some money towards the costs of setting up this project, and for that we are very grateful.
NB. Anyone is free to make an application to the Alpkit Foundation, so perhaps a project idea you have might receive their support.