WELLBEING | Exploring The Benefits of Walking Meditation – Easy Outdoor Meditative Practices to Try

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When Winfields Outdoors told me about their new “Walk & Talk” campaign that aims to spread awareness of the mental health benefits of spending time outdoors, I was keen to get involved and it got me thinking about walking meditation.

It’s a fact that spending time outdoors is beneficial to your wellbeing, but a mindful approach can reap even greater rewards.  Read on to learn how to introduce some easy meditative practices into your walking.

Winfields Outdoors Walk and Talk Campaign

Your mind on nature

A mounting body of research is confirming that spending time outdoors is good for us. In January 2018 Neuroscientist Dr Andrea Michelli discussed the findings of an app based research project which found that there is a strong link between exposure to nature and wellbeing whilst various studies by Ulrich, Kim, and Cervinka found that spending time in nature is associated with a positive mood and improved wellbeing.

So, spending time outdoors is good for you, but how can you maximise the benefits you reap from being outdoors?

Walking is an easy and accessible way to spend time outdoors, and whilst a natural environment is best, even urban walking can provide benefits. Not only does natural bright light boost the production of serotonin, but UV rays on the skin stimulate endorphins resulting in an improvement in mood, so you don’t have to head for the countryside or hills to benefit.

Aber Fall Circular Walk

What is walking meditation?

You might have heard of walking meditation before, and on the face of it, it probably sounds quite simple. Dig a little deeper however and walking meditation can be a tricky process.

Buddhist walking meditation involves focusing your attention in various different ways, often whilst walking back and forth along a short path, carrying with it the obvious risk of making you look ‘unusual’ to any onlookers. Whilst Natural Qigong Walking involves a variety of sequences, incorporating Wind breathing, requiring the following of a relatively complex set of instructions that takes dedicated practice to master.

Following official advice on how to do it ‘properly’ is all well and good, but the amount of commitment needed to master it could mean you’re much more likely to fail. Instead, I recommend picking out elements of true walking meditation, combined with simple mindfulness techniques to find something that works for you.

Hafren Forest walk in Wales

6 Easy Outdoor Meditative Practices to Try

1. Focus on something

Repeat the same well-known walk frequently, each time focusing on something different. That could be focusing on the weather; the feel of the sunshine or wind on your face, on the sound of birdsong, on the trees you pass, you get the idea.

2. Pay attention to your physical self

Walk slowly, purposefully and focus your attention on how each step feels in a physical sense. Start by focusing on the feel of your foot striking the floor and slowly move your awareness up your body as you walk.

Wheelock canal walk sandbach, Cheshire

3. Talk about nature

If you are walking with a partner, have gentle conversation about how you feel in that moment or discuss any aspect of the nature all around you. Walking aids relaxation and can make you more receptive to your environment so as you notice details, voice them. Even if you are walking alone, you can still have an internal conversation with yourself, noting the sensations and things you see that make you feel happy or that stand out as unusual for example.

4. Repeat a mantra as you walk

Your mantra can be as simple or as complex as you like, but I find a simple affirmation can often work well something along the lines of “I am happy and calm in this moment” can work wonders.

5. Remember somewhere special

Find a beautiful spot and sit still for a while, slow your breathing and take in every little detail. You’ll need to focus deeply as you take everything in, and if you return to the spot frequently, you’ll eventually be able to call this calm happy place to mind at will.

6. Identify and focus on something beautiful

Doing this can produce a euphoric feeling that will instantly calm and uplift you. Take time to gaze at and contemplate a beautiful landscape or a majestic tree. If you are walking in an urban environment, contemplate the brilliant green moss growing on a brick wall and notice how nature always finds a way.

References & Further Reading

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Winfields Outdoors Walk and Talk Campaign