We all know physical exercise is good for us, but sometimes there’s too much pressure to exercise the way we think we “should”. To some, exercise means enough intense cardio and weight training for your body to resemble that of a Victoria’s Secret model. Just the thought of exercise can be anxiety-inducing (When will I have time to go to the gym this week? Can I afford it? Can I find a babysitter? I’ll never be able to work out enough to get invited to walk in the VS Fashion Show. Nevermind, I’ll just sit on the couch and eat Cheetos.) When it comes to your mental health, know that it’s just important that you move your body. Walking is an excellent way to move your body (and it’s free!).
By turning your walk into a mindful walk, what you are really doing is a moving meditation. Regular meditation can be a wonderful tool for reducing stress and anxiety, connecting with yourself, slowing down, and focusing on the present moment. But for many, it can be very difficult to quiet your mind and maintain your focus inward. By making your meditation a moving meditation, you can allow your walk to be your guide while appreciating the beauty around you.
For this post, I practiced what I preach and took a mindful walk with my best friend, George (the handsome fellow pictured above). I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately, and admittedly, self-care has not been high enough on my priority list. The fall leaves are brilliant this time of year, and I knew this was the perfect time for George and I to have a little “us-time” (I normally recommend practicing this alone, but dogs are good for the soul. He completes me.). Here’s how to turn walking into a moving meditation:
-Challenge yourself to detach from electronics for this walk (no music!). This is about taking in the world around you and connecting with each of your senses.
-Start by closing your eyes and taking a few deep, cleansing breaths of fresh air. Then begin walking at a natural, comfortable pace.
-Notice the way your body feels. The way your arms feel at your sides, the feel of your feet connecting with the ground. Your legs, as they take each step. Do you feel any tension anywhere? To help focus my mind on this, I like to count my steps up to 10 and then start over. Notice your breath.
-Take a few minutes to focus your attention on each of your senses individually. What do you see? What colors are the leaves? Are the leaves falling? What color is the sky today? Is it bright blue or gray and cloudy? Are there people, cars, animals? Notice every detail.
-Now what do you feel as you’re walking? Is there a breeze? How does it feel on your skin? Can you feel the crunch of leaves beneath your feet? (This is why I love doing this in the fall!). If you’re like me and you’re walking with your spirit animal, how does the pull of their leash feel in your hand?
-Shift your focus to your sense of smell. Are there any scents in the air? How does fall smell differently than other seasons?
-Now allow yourself to just have an open awareness of everything around you. If your mind starts to drift, or unwanted thoughts creep in, not to worry! Or if your dog nearly rips your arm off to go pee on the 50th tree he’s peed on, not to worry! Just shift your attention back to your surroundings, to your senses, or being counting steps again. Notice your breath. Notice any physical sensations in your body as it moves.
How do you feel?
Give yourself a pat on the back for taking time out of your day, with intention, to focus on you and to move your body.