In our busy world, many people find themselves stressed and anxious, getting swept along from one thing to the next without having a chance to think. Mindfulness is a much-needed pause button.
The beauty of mindfulness is that you can do it anywhere, at any time – whether you’re washing up, having a shower, or on the bus. As long as you do it with intention, and really focus on being in the moment and noticing the world around you, you can tune in to the experience of even the most mundane tasks and begin to appreciate what you are experiencing while you experience it.
Our psychological health expert, Eugene Farrell, outlines how walking can be a great opportunity to practice mindfulness. However, don’t forget, you can be mindful anywhere, this is just an example of one setting where it can be used.
How do I walk mindfully?
- It doesn’t matter whether you’re on a remote, countryside ramble or walking to work in the rush-hour, you can choose any setting for this practice.
- Take a few steps and then pause. Bring your mind to your practice and follow your breath using our guide to mindfulness breathing.
- When you’re ready, begin walking again.
- Don’t worry about what your arms are doing, just try to walk naturally. At first, you might find you need to keep the pace quite slow. Just accept this. You can speed up – and even run mindfully – but it’s good to start at a gentle pace while you get used to the practice.
- Now, rather than instinctively moving your legs, really focus on every action in minute detail. Think about how you lift the foot up and place it down further forward, starting with the heel and rolling through the entire sole. Feel your weight move into your front leg as you start to peal your back foot from the floor, from heel to toe. Can you feel the ground beneath you? What can you hear as you walk?
- Does each step make a noise? Are there sounds around you? Notice how the cycle repeats as you move along.
- After a few minutes, take a moment to think about how your body feels. Do you have any tensions or sensations? How does the ground feel against your feet?
- Now begin to notice the sights and sounds around you. Focus on the colour of your surroundings, the movements of your body and any noises you can hear. Can you hear people, animals or children? Can you feel the sun or a breeze? Do you notice any smells? Notice how you move into different spaces.
- Don’t worry if your mind wanders. Just slowly bring it back to focus, without judgement.
You can practice walking mindfully for as long and as frequently as you like. You might prefer little and often, or one long session – listen to your body and work your practice in a way that suits you.
The technique might feel tricky at first. Don’t be too hard on yourself, some days it will come easier than others. If walking mindfully doesn’t work for you, try another task. The activity doesn’t matter, it’s all about making sure you focus on the present.