Mental Well-Being

Reduce Stress and Deepen Connections With Mindful Walking

February 22, 2022

Taking a walk is great for your body on multiple levels. Moving your body every day is key in a healthy lifestyle, especially if you can get outdoors and breathe fresh air. Your mental health also benefits from a good walk, as it relieves stress and offers a break from work, to-do lists, and other stressors. But did you know you can make your walk even more powerful in negating stress and restoring your sense of mindfulness? You can!

Two excellent ways to get your steps in for the day are listening to an audiobook as you hit the trail or walking with a friend and chatting. You might also want to consider adding something called mindful walking into your rotation. Mindful walking is like a moving meditation, which makes it great for anyone who finds it difficult to sit still for long periods of time. It allows you to become aware of your surroundings and your body while cultivating a sense of peace and tranquility.

Take some time to center

Before you start your mindful walk, it’s essential to get centered. You can do this while sitting anywhere. Centering helps you feel more connected to your senses, body, and the world around you as you move. Follow the steps below to feel calm and ready to enjoy a bit of movement and solitude.

  1. Feel your seat beneath you and your feet on the ground. Allow yourself to settle into a feeling of stability both in your mind and body as you visualize yourself being held by the earth beneath you.
  2. Bring your awareness to your breath. Simply allow your breathing to move as it wants and notice where you feel it in your body, whether in your belly, chest or even nostrils. Notice if the air feels cool or warm.
  3. Focus on breathing and try to feel calmer every time you inhale. The key is to allow the breath to enter the body while noticing that you’re receiving fresh, life-giving oxygen.
  4. On each exhale, allow your body to release tension, thoughts, and anything else you sense yourself holding in. Imagine cleansing your body of these things. Continue this for a few rounds of breathing.
  5. Allow yourself to notice your senses and instincts while embarking on your mindful walk. Try to feel a sense of gratitude, humility, and respect for nature. Whether taking a walk along a busy street, through a nature preserve or in your neighborhood, you are always a part of the natural world.

Notice your senses

Now that you’re centered, it’s time to move. When we head outdoors, our senses heighten, especially in the woods or another natural setting. Mindful walking requires us to be in touch with our senses in the present moment so that we can feel the world around us without getting caught up in the tricks of the mind that keep us in the past or future. As you walk, simply focus on one sense at a time and how it interacts with the natural world around you. If you start with hearing, listen carefully to all the sounds around you. Maybe you hear birds chirping, trees rustling, or even traffic. Whatever it is, just allow it to be received through the ears by way of your sense of hearing. You can do the same for sight, touch, smell, and even taste. 

Attune to your breathing

Another way to get in touch with the present moment is through the breath. One walking meditation technique taught by the famous Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn involves the simple method of matching one breath to a certain number of steps. For instance, if your natural inhale lasts for about four steps, try to make that your walking pace as well. Four steps per inhale, four steps per exhale. Focus on feeling your feet touch the ground as you walk. This type of meditation is great for those who find themselves lost in thought, as it helps to ground and center you. 

Mindful walking can be as simple as allowing your senses to rest in the space around you or it can be more methodical, involving meditation techniques. Choose whichever way works best for you in order to get the most benefit. Stress reduction, cultivating inner peace, and feeling a connection with nature are all benefits to be gained from walking slowly and mindfully. Next time you head outside, why not leave the earbuds behind and listen to nature’s soundtrack instead?