Many of us have very sedentary lives. We sit in an office, sit at home, and sit in a car. Many of us also try to squeeze in some exercise to offset all this time spent sitting. Research shows that regular exercise is just as good for us mentally as it is physically. Incorporating mindfulness into regular exercise can further boost the positive effects.
Because we spend much of our day sitting, the idea of sitting even more to engage in meditation or mindfulness can seem unappealing. I know that for me, I have great difficulty sitting still to practice mindfulness because of this. My favorite way to be mindful is to do it while walking. Here are some things to think about when engaging in mindful walking:
Remember that mindfulness is about connecting with the present moment so try to first notice how your body feels. What sensations do you feel and where do you feel them? Are you tense? Relaxed? Take some deep breaths and focus on how it feels to breath in and out. Maybe set an intention for the day, something to return to during the walk.
Once you feel settled into your body, start walking slowly. Walk heel to toe and notice how your feet feel with each step. Notice how they feel inside your shoes and how your legs feel every time you take a step. Then you can pick up the pace a bit and walk how you might normally walk. How does it feel to move through the world? Gently acknowledge any sensations that appear in your body.
Next, start to turn your attention to the world outside. Using all of your senses, try to acknowledge at least one thing. What do you see, hear, feel, smell, and even taste? What do the buildings and the houses look like around you? What is the temperature of the air? Can you hear birds? Acknowledge any sensory stimulation just like you did with your body sensations and then bring your attention back to how it feels to walk and move.
Then, start to notice any thoughts that pop up in your head. Just like the sensations and the sensory input, gently acknowledge these thoughts and let them pass by. Return your attention to how it feels to walk. Do the same with emotions. Notice how you feel, gently acknowledge this, then let it pass. Just like sitting mindfulness, walking mindfulness helps create some distance between thoughts/emotions and you. Remember, you are not your thoughts and emotions, you are a person experiencing thoughts and emotions. Also, thoughts and emotions are neither good nor bad, they just are.
Continue walking as long as you want, noticing your thoughts, emotions, bodily sensation, and your external environment. It is helpful to connect with the present moment from time to time to allow ourselves some space from the constant whir of “stuff” in our heads. It’s a nice reminder that we are not this chatter, but rather a living being perceiving and experiencing the stuff inside our heads and the world around us. Hopefully walking can be another mindfulness tool to add to your practice!