Catherine Graham is an Eskaton guest blogger and the Wellness Coordinator at Eskaton Support Center.
I went for a walk this morning and it was beautiful! The sun was just beginning to rise, the birds were chirping, the air was cool, and I could smell fresh brewed coffee as I passed my neighbors’ houses. This wasn’t just any walk however, because I practiced mediating while I strolled along the sidewalks of my neighborhood. Walking meditations are great because you can do them anywhere, anytime! In less than 10 minutes, you can increase your “feel good” hormones (serotonin and dopamine) which help you handle stress and anxiety throughout the rest of your day. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to do a walking meditation, here’s a 5-step checklist for how to go about it:
#1 - Set an Intention: If you’re one of those people whose mind is always going a million miles a minute (especially when you try to quiet it during a meditation), setting an intention before you lace up your sneakers can help. It can be as simple as finding peace, reminding yourself you’re safe, or finding gratitude for the day.
#2 - Choose a Location That Allows You to Walk in a Straight Line: City or country, hilly or flat, paved or grassy, the details of where you’re walking don’t really matter. However, it can significantly help you achieve a meditative state if your chosen route allows you to walk in a straight(-ish) line for at least 15 or so paces. If you’re stuck inside and can only walk the length of your hall, this can still work! You can continue on if your location allows it, or at the end of each block, street, or hallway, turn around and retrace your steps. The goal here is not covering terrain, but mindfully noticing it.
#3 - Practice Mindfulness of the Body, Surroundings, and Sensations: On your meditating walk, focus on the specific feelings of each foot leaving the pavement and being placed down again. Observe your weight on the ground and your stride. Notice your arms, back, and posture. Feel the wind and take note of the smells around you. You can choose to focus on just one element at a time and switch to another on each block or street — however you’d like to divide up your focus.
#4 - Use a Guided Track: A helpful tip for those struggling with how to meditate is using a guided audio! Many find a guided meditation super helpful as a way to stay “on track” (if you will), and prevent yourself from mentally crafting a grocery list for five minutes. There are even specific tracks specifically designed to be used while walking. Headspace is a great free app with all kinds of guided meditations – just download and go!
#5 - Appreciate the Beauty Around You: It doesn’t matter if you’re walking on a city street or down your own hallway or on the most scenic of trails — there’s always something to appreciate around you. After you finish focusing on each deliberate step and noticing the sensations in your body, shift your concentration to looking for small examples of beauty. That might be the trees overhead, the garden you passed, a bird you heard, or if you’re in your own home, decor or items that bring you comfort.
I hope these tips help you feel less stressed and more centered – you might even get a better night’s sleep!