Leave the headphones at home
Since I first started running, I've always left the house with my headphones fully charged and my playlists queued up. This was largely because I used to run in busy cities and listening to music helped to mask the background noise whilst keeping my pace on track.
It was only when I started to do more trail and beach running around South Wales that I found enjoyment in running without headphones, as it allowed me to be more present and focus my thoughts. I was able to listen to the sound of the birds chirping or the waves crashing, rather than being distracted by the constant noise in my ears. I was also able to listen to my body better, as I could hear my breathing clearly and check in with myself by doing a full body scan. I used to find that I'd sometimes push harder than necessary for a 'recovery' run due to my playlist of choice. In a headphone-free world, I'm more aware of monitoring my pace and notice any postural changes that set in with fatigue. Being more in tune with my movement also allows me to make adjustments and avoid any potential injuries.
Whilst I still enjoy the occasional run with headphones, I truly appreciate the mental clarity that a music-free outing allows. It's the ultimate lesson in mindfulness and provides an opportunity for solitude and reflection. I find myself coming up with new creative ideas or thinking of solutions when in this semi-meditative state. Even if you're a playlist devotee, consider taking your headphones out for a portion of your run to really appreciate your surroundings, listen to your environment and ground yourself in the moment.