We all walk. But we are usually walking fast on the way to something, thinking about a task we need to complete, something that is worrying us, or the person we are meeting. We often walk without noticing what we are thinking, doing, or feeling. Often we can be walking while talking on the phone or listening to music. And it’s not that uncommon for us to just walk in an automatic mode as a means to get us from point A to B; it is after all something we do pretty much everyday.
Mindful walking is a practice I have been integrating into my life on a daily basis. It was only a few months ago that I couldn’t walk without pain after a bulging disk stopped me in my tracks and hindered my movement. After lying on my back for over a week and seeking professional care, I was reminded of simple, mindful acts that I could do each day to help me slow down, be present, and to apply some self care for myself. It doesn’t have to take a health scare like this to reboot your approach to walking, but a reminder from another perspective can assist greatly in recalibrating.
What I love about mindful walking is that the practice and action is very much underpinned by the principles of mindfulness. That is, being self aware, grateful, and present. When being mindful we are in the here and now, in touch with our body, senses, thoughts, emotions, and feelings. My top tips for turning your walks into a mindful walk are:
- Breath. Focus on your breathe. Shift from shallow breathes or fast paced breathing to deep diaphramic breathing. Think of the breathe and your body, making it a point of focus. Slow down your inhale and exhale.
- Notice. Pay attention to what is, that is, attend broadly to your experience, noting it, but without the need to change it. Observe, almost like you watching yourself or the situation you are in.
- Tune in. Take time to tune into all your senses - smell, taste, sound, sight, and feel. What is happening around you? What are your smelling? What can you hear? What sounds are gathering your attention? What sounds do you have to tune into closer? What colours are your seeing? What can you taste in the air? How do you feel?
- Be in the here and now. Be present with your body and how each muscle is feeling and reacting to pressure, your worries or burdens, the fresh air, or the events happening around you. Don’t judge, just notice.
- Notice the body as a whole. Widen your attention to the body as a whole. Keep breathing deeply and now notice any sensations that are present.
- Be with the moment. Walk with no music pumping in your earphone, no screen time, no social media checks, no multi-tasking, and no conversations with others on the phone. Be with the moment and time you are taking to mindfully walk — it is all about walking and enjoying the environment you are in whether it be the local streets around your home, in the bush, or along the beach shoreline.
- Enjoy. Smile and have fun as you take this time for you.
- Be grateful. Share a gratitude and appreciation for the experience you have on your mindful walk. It could be acknowledging the colours around you, the smells of the season, the smile of a stranger who you passed, or even the fact that you have shown self care to take a moment in your day for you.
Taking a break to go on a mindfulness walk can support becoming refocused when at work or at the beginning or end of the day. These mindful walks can support and inspire creativity and help with productivity. As we tune into our senses and body, aligned to deep breathing and just enjoying being out and about in the nature or the streets we are allowing ourself to reboot. It’s a chance apply a moment of self care — to stop feeling overwhelmed, to feel good and to help operate at the best of our ability. A mindful walk takes only a short amount of time, it could be a walk around the corner, a conscious walk in nature whether it be by the beach, in the mountains, or in a park, or even a walk in the city streets.
Enjoy the chance to mindfully walk, and set the intention to take a moment for you.