Taking a walk to clear your head – putting some distance between you and the things that are stressing you out, at home or at work – even if it’s just a quick jog around the block, is a simple way to ease tension. Add some focus to your meanderings (like breath awareness, affirmations, walking meditation or meaningful conversation) and you’ll find that you can stretch your mind while you’re stretching your legs.
Mindful walking can help you take giant steps towards greater emotional awareness. It can enhance your personal problem solving ability, boost creativity, ease tension and help you build better connections with family and friends. And since walking (like vitamins and your nutritional intake) has its own daily recommended guidelines (10,000 steps per day – that’s about 5 miles total), why not reap even more mind/body/spirit benefits while burning up calories and keeping your health in check? You can do it simply by taking those steps mindfully!
Walk your troubles away
Take your problems for a walk, a long one, (a mile or two, if you can) where there’s little to distract you from doing a little emotional healing. Pick your issue before you leave, suggests Thom Hartmann in his book Walk Your Blues Away. Give it a storyline – just a sentence or two – like: “I can’t believe my oldest friend would betray me,” or “He left, two years ago, and I’m still crushed…” and catch the reaction you have to the story. Next, take it outside and focus on it throughout your walk. Think of ways you may have learned from the experience. Put your questions to yourself more than one way. As you head back, consider how you might tell the story to someone since you’ve “walked on it.” Has your reaction changed? Do you feel better? When you get back, write down any change of perspective to help make it stick.
Meditation doesn’t have to be done sitting down. Some people find it easier to clear their mind when they’re not sitting still. In walking meditation you reconnect your mind and body by losing yourself in the rhythm of the movements of walking or in your breath.
To “breath” walk, which is based on yoga breathing techniques, you’ll be breathing in and out through your nose. Simply walk naturally and match your pace to your breath. Next, change it up a bit and take two to four steps per one long inhale or exhale. Vary your breaths and your steps. Stay focused and it won’t be long before you lose the chatter in your head in the rhythm of the synchronized movements
To take a meditative walk, first pay attention to how your feet move along the ground. Focus from your feet up to your head gaining an awareness of how your body feels in motion. Concentrate on relaxing each area as you scan your body. Then pay attention to your feelings. Finally, connect your inner experiences to your outer ones. A sense of calm, happiness and clarity are the rewards. Stop and relax or stretch slowly, before you move on to other activities.
Just as meditation can be easier on foot, so can a meeting of the minds when matters of the day need some attention. Many couples walk together for exercise and find that it also eases their communication and helps keep family ties stronger and eases household tensions. Walking with a spouse or children is a mindless way of drawing them out, allowing them to speak their peace, get them to listen, or make plans without household distractions. On this walk, the focus is on each other. (Leave cell phones and iPods at home!)
All that blood flowing to the brain from a walk, amps up your mental acuity and makes it the perfect time to practice speeches or presentations, affirmations and to release creative blocks, with it’s relaxing effects. You can mix in some breath walking or meditative walking at the beginning, and when your head is clear, take on your project.
Things always seem better after a good walk. Add mindfulness to your strolls and you may have just the motivation you need to get in your daily 10,000 steps in.
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