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The Art of Mindful Walking

Mindful walking is a wonderful way to feel calm and relaxed, it will benefit both the mind and body.

You can step out of the door with the sole purpose of focusing on your breath, how your body moves and the sights and sounds of your surroundings.

Or, more likely, you can drop the practice of mindfulness in as and when it feels good, on YTO guided walks, dog walks or walking to work.

Meditation helps us to be in the moment, in a world that seems designed to distract and stress us out.

How far and fast do I need to walk?

There are no rules, if your only reason for walking is to medicate, keep it short and slow. Otherwise, your mindful walking can be as far and fast as you have the time and energy for.

A simple walking meditation

Pay attention to your breathing and how your body moves. How fast are your arms swinging? What does the ground against your feet feel like? Notice your heart rate and any changes in temperature.

If your focus wanders, concentrate on moving from foot to foot and feel the rhythm.

Counting your steps and/or repeating mantras is also helpful. In India, the local guides taught us ‘Om Mani Padme Um’ a spiritual phrase which can be matched to footsteps. ‘Nowhere to go. Nothing to do. No one to be’ is also ideal.

Sensory walking

Tune into each of your five senses as you walk.

  • Sight

  • Hearing

  • Smell

  • Touch

  • Taste

The aroma of wild garlic, the sight of dappled light in a wood, the sound of a bee searching for nectar, the taste of the sweets you have in your pocket and the feel of long grasses as your fingers brush over it.

Even when chatting with friends you can use your senses to enhance your walk. If you notice something, bluebells, lambs chattering, a strange type of fungus on a tree…point it out!

Using your senses grounds you. It’s a key technique when managing anxiety, panic or overwhelm.

Body scanning

If you’ve ever been to a relaxation class, used the Calm app or watched a meditation video on You Tube, you will recognise body scanning.

Usually it involves laying still on a bed or yoga mat. However, I think it’s most effective when in motion.

Notice the each part of your body individually, from your feet to your head. Feel how they move as you walk, climb over stiles and react to carrying a rucksack.

Gratitude and appreciation

The modern world has a negativity bias. Bad news receives more clicks than good and pessimism can feel ‘safer’ than optimism.

Studies have shown that appreciating the beauty of our surroundings as we walk through nature has a long lasting effect on our mood and ability to see the positive.

A beautiful sunset, ancient tree, scarlet red toadstools, light sparkling on a river, a meadow of wild flowers. When you walk, look for and celebrate the magic.

Feeling grateful for body’s ability to move without restriction or pain is also an important part of mindful walking.

Observing emotions

Welcome the apprehension as you approach a steep hill, savour the pride you feel as your legs carry you upwards, soak up the joy of a spectacular and hard won view.

Even negative feelings are a part of mindful walking….the irritation at having to climb another stile or the stab of worry as you walk through a field of cows.

Use movement to influence your emotions, walking with shoulders back and a purposeful step will make you feel more confident.

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