May is National Walking Month, and there's no better time to get outside and enjoy a stroll and some sun. Walking is an amazing activity that not only keeps us physically fit but can also improve our mental wellbeing. It’s a great way to get moving, enjoy the outdoors, and connect with nature. But did you know that walking can also be used as a form of active meditation or mindfulness? In this blog, we'll explore the benefits of walking for your mind and body, so if a standard sitting meditation isn’t for you keep reading to find out about this active form.
Meditation and mindfulness have become increasingly popular in recent years as a way to manage stress, improve mental clarity, and promote inner peace. However, some people find it challenging to sit still and focus on their breath for an extended period of time. That's where walking comes in.
Walking is a low-impact exercise that's accessible to almost everyone. Whether you're young or old, fit or not, walking is a great way to improve your physical and mental health. Walking can help reduce stress and anxiety levels: the rhythmic movement of walking can have a calming effect on the body, while the fresh air and natural surroundings can help clear your mind and reduce negative thoughts. While we walk, our brain releases endorphins, the feel-good hormones that improve mood and reduce feelings of depression. Regular walking can boost self-esteem and confidence too: when we set goals and achieve them through walking, it gives us a sense of accomplishment. Walking also improves our mental wellbeing by improving the quality of our sleep: when we’re physically active during the day, our body is more likely to feel tired and ready for sleep at night.
In addition to the physical and mental benefits of walking, it can also be a great way to practice active mindfulness. Active mindfulness is the practice of being present and focused on the present moment while engaging in an activity. Walking meditation, also known as mindful walking, is a form of meditation that involves walking slowly and deliberately while focusing on your breath, bodily sensations, and surroundings. It can be practised anywhere, whether it's in nature, around your neighbourhood, or even in a quiet room. It's a simple yet effective way to reduce stress, improve focus, and connect with yourself and the world around you.
Here's how to use walking as a form of active mindfulness:
Set an intention: Before you start your walk, set an intention for your practice. This can be as simple as focusing on your breath or being present in the moment. You can also decide how long you want to walk for or how far you want to go. Setting an intention can help you stay focused and engaged in the present moment during your walk and will give you a sense of accomplishment and motivation.
Choose a quiet route: To fully engage in active mindfulness while walking, it's important to choose a quiet route. A peaceful path or park can help you focus on your surroundings and reduce distractions. When you do get distracted, bring your attention back to your breath and footsteps.
Leave your phone at home: Technology can be a major distraction when you're trying to practice active mindfulness. Leave your phone at home, or put it on silent and resist the urge to check it while you're walking.
Walk Slowly: When practising walking meditation, it's important to walk slowly and deliberately. Pay attention to the sensations in your feet as they plant into the ground and the movement of your legs and arms. Focus on each step as you take it.
Pay attention to your senses: As you walk, pay attention to what you can see, hear, smell, and feel. Notice the colours of the trees and flowers, the sound of the birds singing, the smell of freshly cut grass, and the feeling of the breeze on your skin. Engaging your senses can help you stay present and focused.
Focus on your breathing: Your breath can be a powerful anchor for your practice. Focus on the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves your body. Counting your breaths can also be helpful in staying present. Take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. This can help calm your mind and reduce stress.
Stay Present: It's common for your mind to wander during practice, but when this happens, gently bring your attention back to your breath, bodily sensations, or surroundings. Stay present and non-judgmental of your thoughts, and resist the urge to pay attention to them.
Walking is a simple yet powerful activity that can improve both physical and mental wellbeing.
By walking regularly, you can reduce stress and anxiety, boost mood and self-esteem, improve sleep, and even improve brain function. By following these tips and incorporating walking meditation into your routine, you can experience the benefits of mindfulness in a way that works for you. So why not put on your walking shoes, step outside, and take a stroll today? Your mind and body will thank you for it.
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