Mindful walking – five easy ways to get started

Research shows that mindfulness – the ability to be fully present in the moment – can help to decrease stress and depression. It can also increase levels of focus and happiness. But what about mindful walking?

Mindful walking is where we truly focus on what’s around us, rather than rushing from A to B. It can be particularly useful if we find ourselves in challenging circumstances. It offers a rare opportunity to take a step back from our constantly whirring internal monologue, and not be beholden to reactive thoughts and feelings.

Learn to incorporate mindfulness into your walks with these easy tips below.

How to do mindful walking

Match your breath with your steps

Synchronising your breath and steps when mindful walking can help to distract an anxious mind and ground us in the present moment. Breathe in for four steps and out for four steps. Keep the inhale and exhale steady or, for a more restorative breath, slowly lengthen the exhale (in for four steps, and out for six or eight).

Look out for colour

Commit to taking three photographs on your walk, each one featuring the most vivid colours you can find. It might be a splatter of flowers or a deep green leaf – whatever catches your eye.

Surround yourself with sound

Focus your attention on any noises in your environment. It might be a rustle of leaves, the sound of your breath or someone calling their dog. If you’re in a more urban environment it might be the beep of a green man, the whooshing of passing cars or even sirens.

Don’t get caught up in whether the sounds are pleasant or unpleasant: simply note them and move onto the next.

Pay attention to sensation

Turn your attention away from what you’re making for dinner and tune into what your body can feel. Can you feel the impact of your feet on the floor? The wind on your face or the sun on your shoulders? How many sensations can you count?

Avoid the cracks in the pavement

On days when we’re particularly tangled in our thoughts, we may need a more active task to keep our attention trained on the present moment. This childhood game is a great tonic. Simply try to step in the centre of each paving slab, avoiding any cracks.

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