By Eddie Phillips, MD
Hi. I’m Dr. Eddie Phillips. I’m a physician specializing in lifestyle medicine and board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
Have you taken a mindful walk today?
Mindfulness is a technique that encourages you to slow a racing mind and embrace each moment as it unfolds. Just blend this with a simple, repetitive exercise like walking, running or swimming. It’s a wonderful way to ease stress.
Think of this as a way to fully engage all of your senses. Mindfulness teaches you to focus attention on what’s happening in the present and accept it without judgment. This enhances your appreciation of simple everyday experiences.
For example as you walk, first narrow your concentration by focusing on an aspect of your breathing. It may be the sensations of air flowing into your nostrils and out of your mouth. Or it’s your belly expanding as you inhale and contracting as you exhale.
Try counting from one to five as you inhale, then five to one 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 your clothes rubbing lightly against each other. Feel the touch of a cool or warm breeze against your face. Notice light and the shadows cast on you as you move. Or just soak in the sun beaming down.
Listen for natural sounds even when walking on city blocks. Do you hear the chirp of crickets, bird songs, rustling leaves or wind blowing?
As you tune in to your breathing, your body and your surroundings, you’ll 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 with deliberation, engaging your senses fully to savor every sensation.
If your mind starts to race, return your focus to your breathing. Then, expand your awareness again.
How you feel physically and psychologically before, during, and after your walk? Did your feelings of stress fade away?
Mindful walks, in addition to exercise, are a great way to feel better and remember how to live in the moment.
Workout Workbook: 9 Complete Workouts to Help You Get Fit and Healthy. Harvard Health Publications, Gardiner J., Prouty J., Bean, J. (2014). Harvard Medical School Special Health Reports.