Today's Monday Dose of Mindfulness post focuses on Mindful Walking. This exercise may be an especially beneficial way for individuals who have difficulty sitting still (e.g., ADHD, restlessness due to anxiety) to begin practicing mindfulness, as many other mindfulness exercises involve stillness in the body.
For many of us, walking is a primary form of transportation, allowing us to move our bodies from one place to another throughout the day. We are so accustomed to engaging in the act of walking, that we often don’t pay attention to what is happening in our bodies that enables us to walk. The practice of mindful walking helps us to become aware of the movements and sensations in the body affiliated with the act of walking. By focusing our attention on walking, we are choosing to shift our attention away from thoughts about the past or future in order to focus on bodily sensations in the present moment. This attentional shift often results in a decrease in feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression.
You may choose to set aside time to practice mindful walking or you may incorporate it into your daily activities as you walk to a destination. Mindful walking can be done outdoors or indoors, with adjustments made for smaller indoor spaces (e.g., walking in circles, pacing back and forth in straight lines, or simply walking around the space without any predetermined path).
Follow the instructions below to practice Mindful Walking:
*Reminder: If your attention begins to wander at any point, remember that this is completely normal. Simply note it and, without judgment, try to intentionally shift your attention back to walking mindfully.
- Begin by walking as you normally do, at a pace that feels natural to you.
Notice the sensations of each foot connecting to the ground. Observe how your heel hits first, then the rest of your foot. Bring awareness into the way that your foot automatically bends as the heel lifts off the ground and your body weight shifts onto the ball of your foot before your toes lift off the ground. Follow this sequence of movements in each foot - heel, foot, ball, lift.
Bring your attention to movement in your legs. Observe how the muscles in your legs support you in walking, how they seem to know exactly what to do without you even thinking about it.
Bring awareness to the movements in your knees, noticing as they bend and straighten with each step.
Now focus on any observable movements elsewhere in the body. Notice any shifting of your body from side to side, the degree of sway in your hips as you walk, and the sensations of your legs rotating in your hip sockets.
Try walking at a slower pace and observe how this changes your experience. Now try walking at a faster pace. Does it feel different in your body? How?
Continue practicing mindful walking until you arrive at your destination or, if setting time aside specifically for this practice, start out spending 3-5 minutes engaging in mindful walking. Eventually, as you continue to build your mindfulness skills, you may consider increasing to about 10 minutes of mindful walking at a time.
Remember to check back for more mindfulness exercises on Mondays!