The seasons are beginning to change, and you can now smell Autumn in the air. Gratefully, we will be welcoming cooler weather and shorter days. Autumn is a beautiful time to get outside and enjoy the weather. One simple and healthy activity is to take a walk.
Taking an intentional walk is a simple way to bring clarity and awareness to your experience. This exercise can be done at the beginning or end of your day, while walking to your car, or walking down a hallway. This will be most beneficial if you can do this outside, where you can experience a connection with the natural world around you.
Mindful walking connects you with your surroundings and yourself
Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. There are numerous benefits to incorporating a regular mindful practice, including increased awareness, reduced stress, and a better overall sense of well being.
Here are some basic steps to guide you through your next mindful walk.
- Start at the beginning, intentionally. Take a moment to focus your thoughts and take a few seconds to focus on your breath. Just observing how it effortlessly moves in and out of your body. Standing up straight, feel how your body connects with the Earth through your feet. Then, take an intentional, purposeful first step.
- Put your best foot forward. It’s that simple. Pick up a foot, move it forward, and gently place it on the ground. Feel the range of motion and sensations of each part of the process. Feel it as it touches the ground, from heel to toe.
- Walk with intention. We often engage in an automatic pilot series of steps, never really knowing how we get from one place to another because of the rambling dialogue of thoughts going through our heads. By bringing your attention to the walk’s present moment, you are connecting with yourself and how you feel right now.
- Allow yourself to notice. As you move from step to step, feel as much as you can with the lifting of your foot, moving it through space, gently placing it down, and continuing in that process. Initially, this may feel strange. Have fun with it.
- Focus your attention. Feel your feet making contact with the ground. Observe how your body moves in unison with the feet and the legs. Let yourself experience what it’s like to be grounded as you make a conscious choice to be present for this walk.
- Feel what is around you. Become aware of the air around you, how it feels on your skin. What do you observe? Is it warm or cold? Is the air dry or damp? What sounds do you hear as you take each step forward? Are there unique smells in the air?
- Your thoughts will take over. Just know that your thoughts will quickly and continuously try to interrupt your walk. It may be your list of things to do, replaying an old conversation, thinking of what you should be doing later. They are all ok. Thoughts are so powerful. Simply return your awareness to your breath and to each step you are taking. Say gently to yourself, I choose to be here now. Allow the thoughts to pass through like clouds in the sky.
- Stop and go. Another fun way to experience your mindful walk is to stop right in your tracks periodically. Observe how it feels to be grounded, upright, and standing still. Take a moment to observe something new with your eyes, ears, or nose.
- You will find your pace. As you walk, continue to notice as you pick up each foot, it moving through the air and as you place it back on the ground. At first, you may want to practice walking slowly, and once you have learned to be present in the process, feel free to find a speed that works for you.
- Go get lost. If you can go outside, it is a fun exercise to walk aimlessly and wander about. It can be wonderful to have no purpose or focus on where you are going. A fun tip is to set a timer and then allowing yourself to just be observant of the mindful and intentional process.
Mindful walking is a great way to connect you with yourself easily. It can be done almost anywhere and anytime. By simply bringing your attention to the movement, motion, and process, you will discover a fantastic world, literally, right under your feet.
Now, go take a walk!