Mindful walking brings positive rewards to mental and physical well-being

Mindful walking brings positive rewards to mental and physical well-being

Express press service

We all walk. But how many of us walk consciously? This seemingly mundane act has become Delhi-based event manager Ritu Mahajan’s greatest therapeutic tool. As a restorative practice, it helped her focus on the present moment, offering a kind of healing that she never thought simple walking could achieve.

Mahajan first noticed signs of psychomotor agitation, such as compulsive twisting of hands, tapping of feet and moving objects around for no apparent reason, a year ago. When one of her somatic symptoms of an overactive response to the slightest stimulus became pronounced, she consulted a doctor. The root of his problem was his demanding job, which had become increasingly stressful during the pandemic.

This involved perpetual troubleshooting, being responsible for every little detail related to the supplier and sometimes working more than 15-16 days without a break. On top of that, she didn’t have the support of her manager and was constantly on the verge of being fired. His need to ‘survive’ makes
a serious breach in his psychological health.

That’s when her cognitive-behavioral therapist introduced her to the simple practice of mindful walking, or the art of doing it deliberately while being aware of every step you take. It became his gateway to healing.

What worked in Mahajan’s favor again was that mindful walking, unlike some of the other traditional forms of seated therapy, allowed her to move freely and be an active participant rather than a passive observer. Given her stress-induced hyperactivity, therapeutic walking made her feel liberated as she slowly found her rhythm.

“I’m much better today, but there are still anxious moments where I feel nervous. A quick, mindful walk is always just a few steps away,” Mahajan says, with a simple reassurance.

How it works?

The practice is as simple as it sounds. All you have to do is walk consciously. “As you take the first step, notice the rhythmic lifting and falling of your feet. Become aware of your surroundings and unite your body with the environment. This means taking into account all sights, smells and impressions as you walk,” says Gauri Nath, a Mumbai-based psychotherapist. Pace doesn’t matter as long as you’re paying attention.

The beauty of mindful walking is in its simplicity. It does not require any gear or equipment, is independent of age, and does not need a fixed place or time. “You can practice mindful walking for a few seconds to an hour. Even walking your dog or taking a quick trip to the grocery store can be turned into a moment of mindfulness,” says Nath, adding, “Similar to the Japanese tradition of shinrin-yoku or forest bathing (spending time in the nature to improve well-being), mindful walking is one of the most accessible forms
of psychological well-being. »

A moving meditation

“Plus, any mindfulness practice, including this one, takes you away from that obnoxious phone/tablet/laptop screen,” says Gurugram-based meditation coach Shashank Rai. You engage your senses and connect with the earth beneath your feet and the sky above your head. “There is something powerfully sublime about it.

It’s both grounding and uplifting, offering the rare chance of walking without distraction,” he says, adding, “Make sure you leave your phone and headphones at home and just focus on the steps you take. do,” he said.

At first, you will be bombarded with intrusive thoughts. Don’t be discouraged, suggests Delhi psychologist Charu Jain. “That’s the nature of our thoughts. They come in droves. Your job is to intentionally focus and refocus on walking. Every time a thought pulls you out of the present moment, gently come back to it. Watch your steps carefully. Notice the sound they make,” she says.

If you are under a lot of psychological stress, you may not be able to walk mindfully at the same time. “In such a case, your body releases hormones that manifest as excess energy in the body, causing restlessness, following which the rhythm of thoughts also becomes severe. When you notice this, walk a little more This will help to expend that energy, bringing your mind back to calm,” says Jain.

Mindful walking is akin to moving meditation, which helps reduce stress, improves sleep and mood, and lowers blood pressure. It can also aid in better concentration if practiced consistently. That said, if you suffer from conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression, or even a severe form of generalized anxiety, being aware may not come easily, but it does. doesn’t mean you don’t. everything.

“Start by walking for just 20 seconds, then sit down. When you’re ready for round two, start again, but take five more steps this time,” he says. The idea is not to count steps but to make every step count.

First steps

✥ Choose a safe environment
✥ Before you start walking, stay in place for a few seconds noticing your surroundings
✥ Choose a natural walking pace; slow or fast it’s totally up to you
✥ As you move, watch the step roll from heel to toe
✥ Move by inhaling and exhaling slowly and consciously, keeping an upright posture
✥ Notice the smells, sights and sensations around you
✥ Walk for as long as is comfortable. Pause and restart.

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