With the news today on Motherpedia that we haven’t progressed much as a nation when it comes to physical activity, I want to encourage anyone who isn’t physically active to take a walk.
Almost one-in-four Australians enjoy walking regularly – it’s the most popular form of exercise – so it’s not difficult. After all, you’ve been walking since you were about 12 months of age. And if you’re not ‘in’ to exercise, or don’t have the budget to spend money in a team sport or at a gym, there’s really no reason not to walk.
So come with me as we go on a ‘mindful walk’.
Mindfulness is a technique that encourages you to slow a racing mind and embrace each moment as it unfolds. Blended with a simple, repetitive exercise like walking, running, or swimming, it is a wonderful way to ease stress.
By fully engaging all of your senses, mindfulness teaches you to focus attention on what is happening in the present and accept it without judgment. This enhances your appreciation of simple everyday experiences, such as the walk described below.
How to take a minful walk
As you walk, first narrow your concentration by focusing on an aspect of your breathing: the sensations of air flowing into your nostrils and out of your mouth, your belly rising as you inhale and falling as you exhale.
Try counting from 1-to-5 as you inhale, then 5-to-1 as you exhale. Do this for a few minutes. Then begin to widen your focus.
While you continue breathing in and out in a measured way, open up your senses to become aware of sounds, scents, and sensations. Enjoy the rhythmic thump of each foot hitting the ground and the whisper of clothes rubbing lightly against each other.
Feel the touch of a cool or warm breeze against your face, notice light and shadows cast on you as you move, or soak in the sun beaming down. Listen for natural sounds even when walking on city blocks: the chirp of crickets or hum of cicadas, bird songs, rustling leaves, wind blowing. As you tune in to your breathing, your body, and your surroundings, you will notice much beyond these examples.
Throughout your walk, continue to breathe slowly and deeply while remaining fully aware and staying in the moment.
Try not to rush. Proceed slowly and deliberately, engaging your senses fully to enjoy every sensation. If your mind starts to race, return your focus to your breathing. Then expand your awareness again.
Consider how you feel physically and mentally before, during and after your walk. I guarantee that if you do this properly, you will feel better in body and in spirit.