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Discover the Power of Mindful Walking: A Simple Guide
Written by: Anne Bach Krog Iversen, Chief DNA & Culture Officer - TimeXtender - October 1, 2023
Unlocking the Magic of Mindful Walking
As life continues to buzz around us, the power and importance of taking some time to slow down continues to grow. This isn’t news to most of us; however, the reality is it can be really hard to put into practice! How do you find the time?
That's where mindful walking comes in. Mindful walking invites us to slow down, breathe, and savor each step with intention - while we are doing something we already do every day. Think of it as the art of being fully present in a world that's constantly in motion.
Imagine this: you step outside and instead of using your walk between buildings to think about the projects you have on your plate, you instead focus on the feel of the sun on your face and the chill breeze blowing by. You walk slowly, enjoying each step. You start to feel more relaxed, and the stuff that worried you starts to feel less important. That's what mindful walking can do for you.
So, let's get into why this is so good for you and how you can start doing it yourself.
A Few of the Many Benefits of Mindful Walking
Mindfulness doesn’t only happen when you are stationary. Mindfulness and movement have been practiced together in dance, sports, martial arts, and many cultural ceremonies for hundreds of years. There are many restorative benefits of bringing these two things together - here are a few of my favorites:
Stress Reduction and Relaxation
In the hustle and bustle of our lives, stress often becomes an unwelcome companion. However, we must face the reality that stress is never, ever going to completely disappear, so we must find ways that actually help us relax - even for a few moments. With practice, mindful walking can help become that escape. That moment of peace to let your body reset before you take on the next challenge of your day.
Scientific studies have shed light on the remarkable impact of mindful walking on our physiological responses. Cortisol, the hormone associated with stress, experiences a decline during this practice, ushering in a sense of calm. Not only does mindful walking lower cortisol levels, but it also acts as a soothing balm for our overall mood. With each step, you're granting yourself the gift of a tranquil mind and a rejuvenated spirit.
Improved Awareness, Presence, and Mental Clarity
We're always multitasking and distracted. Mindful walking helps you focus on what's happening right now. You start to notice things you usually don't pay attention to, like the rustling of leaves or the way the sunlight hits the trees. It can also help you think more clearly.
In contrast to our autopilot routines, mindful walking awakens us to the beauty that unfolds around us. It's a chance to step out of the routine and into a realm where each step becomes a chance to connect with ourselves.
Studies have also illuminated the positive correlation between mindfulness practices such as mindful walking and cognitive function. By engaging in this practice, you're giving your mind the space it craves – a space to untangle thoughts, explore insights, and find creative solutions. As the fog of mental chaos disappears, mental clarity emerges.
Walking isn't a high-intensity workout, but it's good for you. It encourages physical activity that nurtures your well-being. As you take step after step, your body is engaged in a rhythm that supports cardiovascular health and energizes your entire body. With regular practice, you'll find yourself embracing an active lifestyle that celebrates the harmony of body and mind.
By adding an element of mindfulness to your walk, you start to be more present in the moment and, with practice, it will only get easier to train your brain to let those pesky thoughts pass by. You can also think of it as adding some mental exercise to your physical exercise. Get our there and work those sleeping muscles!
Getting Started with Mindful Walking
Pick Your Spot
Find a place where you can walk without too much distraction. It could be a park, a trail, or even a less busy street in your neighborhood. The surroundings you choose will help set the stage for a harmonious experience.
If you aren’t able to get away, you can also choose a walk you already take each day. Maybe you park a little farther away from the building you work in and use the five-minute walk to your car to start practicing mindfulness.
Set an Intention
Before you embark on your mindful walking adventure, take a moment to set an intention.
It could be as simple as wanting to feel more relaxed, staying present, or noticing the beauty around you. Intention is the secret ingredient that adds meaning to your walk. As you move, your intention becomes a gentle reminder to appreciate the experience.
One Step at a Time
The essence of mindful walking lies in the act of taking one step at a time – not as a means to an end, but as a celebration of the present. Walk slowly. Pay attention to how your feet feel lifting off the ground, moving through the air, and then touching down again. You're not in a rush, so take it easy and enjoy.
This practice isn't about speed; it's about the quality of your attention. With each step, try to stay in this moment. Notice those thoughts about your day, but let them pass – and remember, this takes practice!
Engage Your Senses
Look around. What do you see? Listen. What do you hear? Smell. How does the smell of nature change with the seasons? Feel the ground under your feet and the air around you to make the most out of this experience.
While you're walking, try to also pay attention to your breathing. With each step, inhale deeply, letting the air fill your lungs. With the next, exhale slowly, releasing any tension. Deep, conscious breaths infuse your body with oxygen and create a sense of stability and balance.
The marriage of mindful walking and intentional breathing enhances the calming effects of both practices, and it becomes a way to harmonize your inner landscape with the external world.
Incorporating Mindful Walking into Daily Life
You don't have to walk for hours. Even a short 10-minute walk is a great start. By starting with shorter walks, you're setting yourself up for success. Gradually, as your mindful walking practice becomes a cherished habit, you can extend the duration. The key is to do it regularly.
Integrate Mindful Walking into Your Routine
Finding moments of stillness can be a challenge. However, mindful walking offers a bridge between movement and mindfulness. Consider blending this practice into your existing routines. Whether it's during your lunch break, a coffee pause, or even a quick errand.
Set reminders on your phone or partner up with a friend for accountability. Soon, mindful walking will become a cherished part of your everyday routine.
Embrace the Journey: Your Path to Mindful Living
So, there you have it. Mindful walking is more than just a walk in the park. It's a way to hit pause, take a break from the chaos, and just enjoy being you. Whether you're exploring the green landscapes of a park, wandering the bustling streets of the city, or simply strolling through your own neighborhood, you'll be surprised at how mindful walking can make you feel better mentally and physically.
Ready to give it a try? Just put on your shoes, go outside, and take that first step. Your journey begins with the simple act of walking – but its destination is a life rich with moments of stillness, awareness, and connection.
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