The Benefits of Walking
Total time: 18 to 20 minutes.
If you need to relax but can’t sit still, this meditative walk is for you. This routine, from former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe, who created the best-selling Headspace meditation app, is best done in a park or on a quiet street. Don’t bring music or your phone. If your only option is a noisy area, simply take note of the jackhammers or screeching traffic rather than trying to block them out. “Struggling against thoughts is what causes stress,” says Puddicombe. The steps here can be repeated for as long a walk as you want. At a minimum, aim for a mile at a comfortable clip.
1. Start walking at a leisurely pace. Notice the trees, the signs, and the people around you. Being aware of your environment helps to keep your mind in the here and now. Continue for 30 seconds.
2. Now take 30 seconds to focus on how your body feels. Heavy or light? Stiff or relaxed? Just observe; don’t attempt to change or criticize.
3. Take another 30 seconds to become aware of what you hear and smell.
4. Notice any physical sensations, such as the wind on your back or the weight of your arms swinging as you go. Continue for 30 seconds.
5. For the next 30 seconds, bring your awareness to the rhythm of your walking and the feeling of your feet hitting the ground.
6. By now you may be wondering if you’re doing it right. Relax—the only way to do this wrong is not to do it at all. Meditation isn’t about stopping thoughts or trying to judge or control them. It’s about observing them as they pile up. When your mind wanders (and most everybody’s does), gently bring it back to the sensation of your feet touching the ground.
7. Return to step 1.