Mindful walking

This post is the first in a series on walking.

Meditation regulates emotions and improves our ability to focus. It reduces anxiety and lowers the cortisol stress hormone that we produce in our bodies. Mindful walking is a form of meditation. Some people, like me, enjoy moving in order to relax.

Mindful walking is different from just taking a walk. When you walk mindfully you step out and connect with what is happening NOW. You switch off from work and you “see, feel and experience all that is around you with a sense of kindness and non-judgement,” says Dr. Deepak Chopra. A mindful walk resets your brain and brings clarity.

More and more, at home and work, we interact with devices and technology and take on numerous tasks. The amount of multi-tasking we ask our brain to do in a single day is endless and largely hidden from our awareness. Because we use our brain every waking minute, we often forget to give it a break. The more we forget to reset our brain, the more it loses its ability to self regulate.

According to Dr. Chopra, multi-tasking is an addiction that deteriorates rather than enhances brain function. Without mental breaks, our central nervous system is less capable of handling crisis. We shouldn’t only pause when we have headaches, indigestion, insomnia or back pain. We should also pause when we feel good. Mindful walks can help combat the effects of multi-tasking and prevent the onset of stress-related diseases. It’s a great way to keep fit, centered and balanced.

Tips for mindful walking

1. Dress for the weather and head out for a stroll.

2. There is no set time. Some people walk mindfully for 10 minutes every day; some for 30 minutes a few days a week.

3. If you invite someone along, explain to him or her that you are taking a mindful walk which is about being quiet, noticing your surroundings and self-care.

4. Walk in a calm and safe area in your neighborhood or near your work. Parks and forest trails are great. Don’t listen to music.

5. Walk at a comfortable pace. Look outwards. Look at people, notice birds, feel the breeze, be intrigued by smells, insects, clouds, trees, flowers, grass, snow, rain. Observe nature. Look at the world with wonder and joy. If you see “nothing” that catches your attention, that’s fine. Just keep looking outwards. Keep walking and stay focused on where you are NOW.

6. Your mind will wander to the past or the future. That’s fine. Focus your attention to your feet touching the ground. This will help bring you back to the present moment. Continue walking as in paragraph 5.

7. From time to time, take some deep breaths. Deep breathing lowers your blood pressure, slows your heart rate and revitalises you.

8. Last but not least, mindful walking evokes feelings of gratitude. Even for the smallest things, like green grass or a warm breeze. Acknowledge and cultivate gratefulness. It is a foundation for living a healthy life.

Photo courtesy of: Paul Davis

 

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Julie Zimmer

Julie has extensive experience in nursing practice and education in a wide range of fields from intensive/coronary care, to medical-surgical to community and public health. Julie has Bachelor Degrees in Psychology and Nursing, and a Master’s Degree in Community Health Nursing Education. She has taught in faculties of nursing and in various communities in Toronto, Canada and in Geneva, Switzerland, and is a consultant to the International Council of Nurses (ICN). Julie also has years of experience teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in addition to coordinating an English department in a Swiss private school.

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