Walking and jogging is perhaps the most common, free, and natural way of exercising, but have you ever heard about mindful walking? If you are not sure what mindful walking is, think about it as a way of walking (and jogging) with all your senses involved. It’s a deeper and more focused version of ordinary walking, where little or no focus at all is necessary.
Mindful walking and mindful fitness in general is a trend that has taken over the web and social media by storm, with many fitness gurus swearing by its benefits. In a nutshell, mindful walking has the following perks, according to the Michigan State University mindfulness program:
- Reduces blood pressure and heart rate
- Boost the metabolism
- Eases stress and anxiety levels
- Helps improve sleep patterns
- Improves awareness and focus
Mindful walking is considered by many as an active form of meditation that helps activate the mind, body, and spirit at the same time, helping to achieve balance. Since mindful walking is mainly done outside in nature, the benefits you’ll get will be amplified. You will get a breath of fresh air and workout your body, mind, and spirit all at once. If this sounds good to you, keep on reading to find out how to practice mindful walking…
Mindful Walking Step-By-Step:
Step No.1: Find a natural and fairly quiet place outside to start. This could be your local park, a beach, a natural trail in your local district, or even the mountains. Wear some comfortable fitness clothes, take your smartphone or smartwatch with you and get back with all the essentials: a towel, a bottle of water, some paper, and perhaps a snack on the go. Keep in mind that you’ll be walking (ideally) for 20+ minutes to take what you’ll need accordingly. You may take your partner or a friend with you, but it’s best to walk with minimal noise and distractions.
Step No.2: Begin walking at a natural and focused pace. Place your hands wherever you feel nice and comfortable, easing any tension as you go. If you are using a smartphone step tracker or smartwatch, don’t forget to activate it to start tracking your steps. As a start, it’s best to go for a 15-minute walk or approx. 2000 steps with no break. As you keep your pace and walk more, you can gradually increase your time and step count to more than 15 minutes/2K steps. It also depends on the space you are walking--if it’s a big area, you can walk for more than 15 minutes undisturbed. Otherwise, try walking 30 steps at a time, pause for 10 seconds, and then go further or back, walking 30 steps in a row until you reach your goal.
Step No.3: Pay attention to your breathing patterns. If necessary, slow down your walking pace and try to slowly breathe in and breathe out as you walk. Enjoy the breath of fresh air outside and let it renew you. Do this for the first 100 steps, and then breathe as normal. Now, shift your attention to the movement of your feet. Focus on the way it lifts and falls down to the ground. Notice any movements in other parts of your body as well. Try to check your body from all angles (front, side-to-side, behind).
Step No.5: Shift your attention to your natural surroundings. For instance, the birds flying in the sky, the trees, the plants, the sounds of nature, the sound of water streams or waves, and everything outside that catches your attention. Pause for a few seconds and take a tiny break if necessary to admire your surroundings. Then, switch back to walking and keep on noticing your surroundings. Be happy and grateful that you are walking a beautiful natural path, and enjoy being “one” with the surrounding nature.
Step No.6: Focus on the smells around you. Can you smell the fresh sea or lake water? Can you smell the flowers and plants around you? The fresh soil? Are these smells new to you or familiar? Are these smells pleasant and natural? Don’t force yourself to smell anything if you can’t really smell something distinct--just pay attention to what you can smell. If you pair this exercise with slow breathing patterns and walking, you will feel more refreshed and afterwards.
Step No.7: During the last 5 minutes or steps, return your focus back to your feet and body movements. Slow down your pace and breath again slowly for a few moments. Check your fitness counter to see if you’ve achieved your milestone. If not, take a break and mindfully walk for a few more minutes until you reach your goal.
The key to practising mindful thinking is to be fairly relaxed yet aware of your surroundings. Your focus and movements should feel natural and not forceful, although it’s fine if you are pushing yourself a little in the start. If you practise mindful walking for at least 3 times, all the above steps and mindful exercises will become second nature to you. Also, if it's hard for you to go somewhere out in nature every time, you can just practise around your garden or neighbourhood. Of course, you’ll be limited in the amount of distance and space you can cover, but if you go back and forth you can achieve similar results.
Have you tried mindful walking? If so, tell us your experiences down below…