So you’re sitting down to meditate, ready to find your Zen with your favorite app, a mindful group, or maybe even with the help of a hammock that’s floating in midair—and suddenly, keeping your body still is about as easy as walking past an avocado-themed restaurant without even peeking at the menu (AKA impossible).
Hey, it happens—sometimes, being busy 24/7 becomes so ingrained that staying motionless and focusing on your breath is just not. gonna. happen.
That’s when a mindful walk can be a perfect alternative. Consider it an ideal opportunity to experience the positive effects of living in the moment while boosting your step count for the day.
“You can still practice being present and aware while incorporating movement.”
“[A walk] can have the same effect as regular meditating,” says Jamie Price, wellness expert and co-founder of the Stop, Breathe, and Think app. “It gets you out of your head and works as a great excuse to get you outside, which itself has a rejuvenating effect on your brain.” (Seriously: Science proves that getting outdoors has a positive impact on your mental health).
Unlike seated methods, which can get you worrying about breathing correctly or your foot falling asleep, walking lets you focus on the sensations that accompany each step you take. “You can still practice being present and aware while incorporating movement,” says Price.
And if your thoughts start to wander, simply bring your attention back to your body in motion—which, for some people, can be much easier than pure stillness.
Keep reading for pro tips on taking your meditation practice from the pillow to the sidewalk.
Focus on your body
The simplest place to begin: Try connecting your mind to your movements. “Really pay attention to how every part of your body feels with each step,” says Price. “For example, notice your foot touching the ground and your thigh muscles moving forward.”
She notes that usually, it doesn’t take long to get lost in thought (of course), but it’s also easy enough to hit reset. “Get back to what’s happening in your body,” Price says. “Use your next step as an opportunity to start over.”
Indulge all of your senses
Another option is to make a point of enjoying everything you see around you: adorable pups, blooming flowers or your fave smoothie truck on the corner, for example. “Really pay attention to your surroundings and observe details without thinking too much about them,” she says. “Just take it all in without any judgment.”
Price says that it’s key to add a layer of appreciation for what your senses observe. “The idea is to [be] open and curious,” she explains. “I focus on sights and sounds and spend a moment feeling gratitude for how beautiful it is. Cultivate a joyful appreciation.”
Do it anytime, anywhere
Whether you’re near greenery or in a concrete jungle, Price notes that this practice travels anywhere—as long as it’s done outside. “Those senses you’re experiencing might be triggered differently in a nature setting versus a city,” she says, but “the concept of focus and sensory awareness works in any place.” So, next time you set out for a stroll, you can always choose to take it up a (mindful) notch—whether you’re walking a scenic waterfront path on vacay, getting some forest bathing in, or pounding the pavement during your workweek.
You can also try this outdoor meditation as a genius de-stressing tool. And here’s what to do when meditation just doesn’t work for you.