If the idea of sitting still and meditating feels daunting, rest assured, you’re not alone in feeling this way! Despite the many science-backed benefits of meditation (such as improved sleep, reduced stress, and enhanced immune function, just to name a few), many individuals struggle to find a sense of ease and comfort in this mind-body practice. However, not all meditation requires stillness! So, if sitting quietly with your thoughts feels like a struggle, there’s good news — you can still enjoy all the benefits of mindfulness through more active practices, like walking meditation.
Ahead, learn what walking meditation is, its benefits, and how you can get started on your own mindful journey.
What is Walking Meditation?
Just like it sounds, walking meditation is a moving and mobile form of meditation that offers an alternative to mindfulness for those who feel like they can’t meditate in the traditional sense. Unlike seated meditation, which requires stillness and silence, walking meditation harnesses movement of the body as a means to cultivate mindfulness. It can be practiced virtually anywhere, such as in a park, at the beach, in a neighborhood, or really, any setting that brings you peace and comfort!
And while there’s no ‘right way’ to perform a walking meditation, the key is to remain fully mindful with each step. This could include directing your attention to the rhythm of your breath, noticing the sensations in your body, being mindful of your surroundings, connecting with nature, and overall, simply being fully present in the act of walking.
The best part? By engaging your senses and immersing yourself in the natural environment, not only can you cultivate inner stillness, but you can also deepen your connection with the outside world and embrace the present moment.
The Benefits of Walking Meditation
Supported by research for its many positive effects on mental, emotional, and physical well-being, here are some of the science-backed benefits of walking meditation:
#1 Reduced Stress
Just like traditional meditation, walking meditation has been shown to decrease cortisol levels and promote a sense of calm and relaxation. Plus, the integration of breath and movement creates a harmonious synergy that helps soothe the mind and promote a sense of inner calm. According to research, this has been shown to soothe anxious thoughts and improve overall mental well-being!
#2 Improved Sleep
Want a better night’s sleep? Walking meditation may help. Walking meditation can help reduce stress levels, which can help support better sleep, and walking, in general, has also been shown to benefit sleep quality. When you combine the two, research shows it may help improve sleep.
#3 Enhanced Mood and Emotional Well-Being
Plus, it helps facilitate a deeper connection between the mind and body. By simply tuning into your body and focusing on the sensations of walking, research shows enhanced mind-body connection with things such as increased self-awareness and body appreciation.
#4 Increased Cardiovascular Health
Speaking of movement, as a form of physical activity, walking meditation offers the benefits of exercise, including improved cardiovascular health. This gentle aerobic exercise helps to strengthen your heart and improve its efficiency over time, where it’s been shown to boost circulation, lower inflammation, and reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol.
#5 Improved Sleep & Energy
Engaging in walking meditation, especially when performed in nature, has been shown to positively impact sleep. The combination of movement, mindfulness, and exposure to nature (with things such as fresh air and sunshine) creates a calming effect on the nervous system, helping to promote relaxation, and contribute to a more restful sleep. As a result, it helps improve energy!
Getting Started With Walking Meditation
Best of all, getting started with walking meditation is simple.
Step #1 Find a Location: To start, pick a location. Ideally, you’ll want to look for a calming environment where you can walk without distractions. This could be a nearby park, a nature trail, or even a walking path in your neighborhood.
Step #2 Get Comfortable: Make sure you have comfortable walking shoes and walking gear! And if you’re heading for a walk in nature, don’t forget your SPF.
Step #3 Set Your Intention: Before you get started, tune into your body and take a moment to set your intention for the practice. Maybe you take a few deep breaths to cultivate calmness, increase mindfulness with a quick body scan, or simply find a moment of stillness.
Step #4 Begin Walking Mindfully: Start your walking meditation at a slow, comfortable pace. With every step, focus your attention on the physical sensations of walking — this could be the movement of your feet, the shifting of your weight, the engagement of your muscles, the swinging of your arms, or the contact with the ground. Stay present with each step, letting go of any thoughts or distractions that arise.
Step #5 Engage Your Senses: As you walk, fully engage all your senses. Notice the sounds around you (such as the wind blowing or birds chirping), the feeling of the breeze or sunshine on your skin, the sights of nature and your surroundings (noticing things like flowers, clouds, trees, and shadows) and the scents, such as fresh cut grass or the smell of fragrant flowers. Check in with your breath, and immerse yourself in the present moment.
Step #6 Maintain Mindfulness & Awareness: Continue to check in with your mind and body. If your mind starts to wander, gently bring your attention back to the act of walking. And remember to be patient with yourself — embrace any thoughts or emotions that arise without judgment.
Step #7 Complete Your Walk: As your walk comes to a close, take a few minutes to check in with your body. Notice how you’re feeling now vs. when you started your walking meditation! Reflect on any changes in your mind or body, and take a moment to express gratitude and acknowledge the benefits this practice has brought you.
Integrate Mindfulness & Movement Into Your Daily Life
If you’ve ever felt that traditional meditation is not for you, walking meditation may be the perfect alternative. Acknowledging the discomfort that can arise from sitting still, this easy-to-implement and accessible practice harnesses the power of movement to cultivate a sense of calm and clarity.
Like any practice, consistency is key to reaping the full benefits of walking meditation. Set aside dedicated time each day or week until it becomes part of your routine!