Mindful walking

Young man in red jacket walking on a path.jpg

Mindful walking is a form of meditation where you use a slow walk as an opportunity for observation and introspection. It involves being as relaxed as possible, while at the same time being hyper aware of your body and the world around you. This is to help rid your mind of any negative or cumbersome thoughts, and encourage you to live in the moment.

“Mindfulness” as a concept itself refers to our ability to be fully aware of both ourselves and the world around us. Mindful walking therefore is when we use walking an as opportunity to reflect on this. Those who practice mindful walking say that it can help relieve stress, give us a greater appreciation for life, alleviate anxiety, hone our ability to focus our attention, and much more.

The most important thing to remember when taking up mindful walking is that it must be distraction free. That means no music, no phones, no books, nothing. Some advocates of mindful walking say that it is fine to walk with another person, but most push the idea of doing it alone.

Ideally you should be wearing comfortable clothes and shoes for mindful walking, as you will be very aware of your body, and so won’t want your attention drawn to anything scratching or getting caught up in itself. Stand in as “neutral” a position as possible, and feel how your body moves and rests, and where everything is in relation to everything else.

While you want to use mindful walking as a chance to take in the sights you usually overlook, like streams, flowers, animals, clouds etc, you also want to focus on how your body moves. You want to walk at a slower-than-normal pace, whatever that may be for you, barely bending your knees as you move forward, and placing your feet on the ground in a very deliberate heel-to-toe fashion.

During the walk, you should try to take breaths that are as deep as naturally possible, but without straining yourself. The objective here is to get your lungs completely full of air, not to see how much air you can inhale. Take slow, relaxed breaths through the nose until your lungs feel full, then slowly exhale through the nose.

Walking and breathing may be the most fundamental aspects of mindful walking, but your whole body should be slowed-down and relaxed. Try to keep your eyes unfocused, and keep your hands from fidgeting. Try to take in as many sounds and smells as possible. Try to focus on everything that is in your immediate presence, and if you catch yourself thinking about something abstract like work, or a bad memory, simply acknowledge that now is not the time and try to focus on something else.

The goal of mindful walking is to give you some reprieve from the stresses and worries of everyday life. It can be done as often as you like, for as long as you like, in the mornings, evenings, on the weekend or on your lunch break. Everyone has different worries and different thresholds, so there is no one size fits all approach. The most important thing is to find what works for you. And if walking isn’t for you, you can learn more about different mindfulness techniques here.

Julie Farrar