Living mindfully is blending simple mindfulness exercises into daily life. These jewels have the potential to create calmness and appreciation where fear, sadness, and angst used to dwell. This has been my experience with mindfulness as I cope with panic disorder and agoraphobia. At the top of my list of favorite mindfulness exercises is mindful walking. I also add a gratitude practice to my mindfulness walks. Mindfulness is when we are fully present to notice our bodies and our surroundings and not swimming inside our mental thought pool.
Practicing mindfulness exercises helps us to notice we are not our thoughts…we simply have thoughts…and we can learn to simple watch them as we watch a movie.
A consistent mindfulness practice reduces the anxiety surrounding our thinking and thoughts so we can travel lighter as Paul Hedderman often says. There are a multitude of mindfulness practices, and of course, mindfully walking is free, painless, and mostly easy to do.
How do we practice mindful walking? Go outside and take a walk. Walking outside is best. Walking on a treadmill is oksy if you have no access to safe places to walk outdoors. If you are just starting to walk aim for about 10 to 15 minutes of easy or comfortable walking. It helps if you can walk in nature but if that is not available you can walk mindfully in a busy city or in your neighborhood.
- As you are walking observe the various parts of your body such as your feet contacting the ground or the street.
- Notice how your lungs move air in and out of your mouth and nose.
- Notice how the air smells, and how the sun or clouds feel radiating the Sun’s ray onto your body.
- If you notice you are lost in thought bring your attention back to the present moment and begin to notice your surroundings again
- And for goodness sakes, never try to stop your thinking…we cannot stop our thinking any more than we can stop our heart from pumping or our stomach from digesting lunch.
- Focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Notice how when your foot touches the ground that the ground supports your foot.
- Isn’t this amazing, this gravity that keeps us tethered to Mother Earth?
- Relax your breathing, allow the body to breathe itself.
- Look at the homes while you walk or the buildings.
- Notice the colors of the plants you see.
- All the while, relaxed and effortless breathing in and out and walking.
When you practice mindfulness exercises, they can be full-body experiences or focused on one area of the body. Mindful walking is a great sensory awareness exercise and is a welcome distraction from anxiety and depression.
Mindful walking is also a form of physical exercise so your doctor will be happy to hear you are walking mindfully as a practice to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. When you’re depressed, you need those endorphins that arise when you’re exercising. Taking a walk is a great way for the body to release those precious hormones. Walking helps you sleep deeper at night which is very healing emotionally, mentally and physically for your body.
Your marvelous body also produces serotonin when you take walks. Walking is awesome for your mental, physical and emotional health. You don’t have to control your thoughts. Anxiety, depression, or angst may be present in your life as they are in mine. Practicing mindfulness daily eases the mental merry-go-round of trying to chase and control our thoughts. Thoughts are not meant to be controlled or eliminated. Just notice thoughts, or ignore them, as you notice or ignore the trees and the grass.
It’s okay to ignore your thoughts and pay more attention to the body. The body’s wisdom is much greater than the mind’s stories. I tend to ignore my thoughts and pay much more attention to how my body feels, how my senses are receiving information, and how the world and nature around me are showing me what is happening right now…and our moments are fleeting so enjoy each moment. We never know when our last moment will arrive.
Optimally take a mindful walk each day or build up to a 20 – 30 walk at least four days a week. Eventually, you will crave daily walks so you can see what Mother Nature is doing each day…the leaves on the trees, the critters, the cloud formations in the sky, the grass, the warmth of the sun or the wetness of rain or snow. Eventually, when you get the hang of being mindful, you can graduate to Part Two of mindfulness – the advanced class on mindfulness shows you how to notice yourself noticing the thoughts.
Daily walks are so healthful and relaxing that you may reach a point, as I did, where you do not feel as relaxed and calm on days you do not walk.
And please, put your phone on mute while you walk.