Mindful walking, sometimes called walking meditation, has been studied over the last several decades. Research indicates that it can help improve multiple physical and psychological or emotional symptoms, and significantly improve your health. Let’s talk more about why you should be doing it.
What is mindful walking?
Essentially, this is a walk at an unhurried pace, during which you try to take in what’s going on around you, what you are experiencing through your senses, and what is going on with your body.
What are the benefits of mindful walking?
Research shows that mindful walking can help us to:
Manage stress and anxiety
Reduce blood pressure and heart rate
Reduce chronic pain
Improve depression and mood
Strengthen our concentration and attention,
Improve our overall life satisfaction
This can start with the first walk but gets better when you do it regularly.
How do you start?
Mindful walking does not have to take up much time or energy. You can start with 10 minutes a day. It can also be done in a very small space. Some people may walk a loop around a neighborhood, but some choose a small path inside or out, and simply walk back and forth. It may seem awkward at first, just because it is different than your normal routine but once you do it a few times, you may be hooked!
Here’s how to start:
Start by leaving your phone behind or silencing it in your pocket. We won’t be listening to music or a podcast during a mindful walk. Wear some comfortable shoes.
As you start, walk at a relaxed, natural pace. Focus on breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth a little deeper than you normally do.
For the first minute or so, pay attention to the sounds that you hear. Listen to the bird songs, the leaves rustling in the wind, children playing nearby, or whatever sounds you hear.
Then shift your focus to your sense of smell. Do you smell flowers, or maybe food smells from nearby restaurants or a neighbor grilling out?
Then pay attention to what you see, such as colors, structures, everything around you.
Then try to focus on your body. Pay attention to your posture. Pay attention to the feeling of each foot lifting off the ground then the sensation in the soles of your feet as they touch the ground heel first. Feel the wind hitting your body or the warmth of the sun on your skin.
Then, keep this open awareness of everything around you and just walk and enjoy feeling each step you take. Continue for whatever length of time you want.
What if your mind wanders?
Your mind is bound to wander sometimes, it’s perfectly natural. When you notice your mind wandering, just try to focus again on the feeling of your feet touching the ground and expand your sensory awareness from there.
What if you feel stressed or anxious?
When you are feeling stressed, your body produces hormones that give you extra energy (it’s the body’s way to prepare you for fight or flight). This extra energy can make it harder to focus or relax. If you are stressed, start walking quickly for a minute or two, then gradually slow the pace down. This can release some of that extra energy and help calm your nervous system, allowing you to focus your mind more easily.
I would encourage you to try mindful walking. I think you will find that it helps your body and soul.
If you have any questions about mindful walking, please log into your account and send us your question. We are here to help.
Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor