The Power of Mindful Walking
Researchers have long touted the physical benefits of walking, such as increased oxygen intake, revved-up circulation, a healthier heart and calorie burning. But walking can also shed stress and enhance calm energy. “Mindful walking means that you’re living in the moment,” says Laura Farres, a Vancouver sport psychology consultant.
So, instead of pounding the pavement with your head down and earphones in, enjoy active meditation, time to re-energize and think. Here’s how to begin:
1) Say “Om” (Or Whatever Works For You)
“Some people find it helpful to replace the ‘mental swirl’ with a repeated phrase,” says Carolyn Scott Kortge, author of The Spirited Walker: Fitness Walking for Clarity, Balance and Spiritual Connection. A dedicated walker for 20 years, Scott Kortge found that her walks were especially helpful at zapping anxiety when she was being treated for breast cancer. She suggests using a four-beat phrase such as “moving, breathing,” “I am healthy, I am healing,” or “God is with me.” Choose words that are most meaningful to you.
2) Be Deliberate
“Think about every aspect of your foot movement: lifting the heel, the middle of your foot and then the toes,” says JoAnne Hunter, a nurse practitioner at Toronto Western Hospital. She teaches walking meditation, where participants walk very slowly, inhaling with one step and exhaling with the next. “This helps you think about your connection to the earth,” Hunter says. “You feel peaceful and in touch with your body, which reduces stress.”
3) Walk On A Circular Path
Labyrinths are large circular patterns, often painted on the floor or defined with rocks or plants on the ground, which have been used in various cultures for thousands of years to help focus the mind and enhance the spirit.
The spiral pattern, which is repeated in nature (think of a seashell, for example), and the act of walking toward a central goal, are thought to play a role. Repeating a short loop on a nature trail may help you achieve the same calming effect.
4) Take Deep Breaths
‘Try visualizing energy with your breathing: You’re breathing in fresh air, a new day, a different attitude; you’re breathing out everything that’s stale, old and tired,” says Scott Kortge.
Or, think of a colour that represents peace and acceptance to you. Imagine that colour coming into your body when you inhale, and another colour that represents anger or fatigue going out as you exhale.