Silent walks are just what they sound like: taking a walk alone without any distractions, whether that’s your dog barking, a podcast playing, or your friend’s latest gossip. In other words, it’s an anxiety-busting moving meditation. Considering the many distractions we’re otherwise subjected to every day, this could be one part of your day that you actually give to yourself to just... be with yourself.
- Samantha Gambino, PsyD, New York City-based licensed clinical psychologist
The roots in Buddhist meditation
While silent walks are hot on TikTok right now, the idea is far from new, and has roots in Buddhism. The silent walk meditation was a major part of Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh’s lessons. He believed that incorporating peace into all of our actions, including walking, is paramount.
Further, the value of a walking meditation is taught in several Buddhist schools of thought. Many Buddhist leaders will tell you it’s a great way to practice being aware, mindful, grateful, and present. Plus, even the Buddha himself is said to have argued that walking meditations help make you more physically fit and better able to meditate, among other perks.
The benefits, according to a psychologist
While quieter workouts (think: restorative yoga) can offer stress relief and body awareness, what about a totally silent workout? From a psychologist’s perspective, silent walking meditations serve your mind and mood in a variety of ways.
First, a silent walk allows you to truly focus. “Your attention is not divided when you are not on your phone, talking to someone, or listening to a podcast,” says Samantha Gambino, PsyD, the founder of Strong + Mindful, a consulting company that addresses mental health in the workplace. “This creates space for you to pay attention to different things.”
For example, she says, you can use your five senses to take in what’s around you or tune in to how your body feels.
Allows for an emotional check-in
For many of us, the day is packed with working or studying, taking care of family, spending time with friends, cleaning, you name it. By taking a silent walk, you gift yourself a moment to just relax and make sure you’re okay.
“It can be a time to understand how you’re feeling, how your day is going, if you are worried about things, or anything else that helps you tune in with yourself and your feelings,” Dr. Gambino says. “You may also use the time to reflect on a particular situation or to assess how you feel about something that has happened that day or that week.”
And, she points out, in our fast-paced world, we have to be intentional about checking in with ourselves.
Gives you the opportunity to experience nature
The outdoors truly do wonders for our well-being. “Nature has so many positive effects on both our physical and mental health, and taking a silent walk allows you to experience these benefits,” Dr. Gambino says.
Science backs this up. She points to a review of research that suggests time in nature increases happiness and positive feelings, lowers stress, and helps us feel more meaning and purpose in our lives.
Additionally, if you walk near water, the “blue space effect” can come into play. Essentially, research says that being near bodies of water can help you feel more restored, and can lower stress levels.
Allows you to connect with your natural rhythm
Our bodies love—and crave—rhythm. In the book What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, child psychiatrist and neuroscientist Bruce Perry wrote, “Rhythm is essential to a healthy body and a healthy mind. Every person in the world can probably think of something rhythmic that makes them feel better: walking, swimming, music, dance, the sound of waves breaking on a beach…” By taking a walk silently, you’re better able to tune into the soothing cadence of your footsteps—even if you’re not directly paying attention to it.
Provides space for your mind to wander
Hustle culture tells us it’s “unproductive” to relax our minds, but that’s not actually true (or helpful). A silent walk can be a natural way to give your brain some chill time and daydream, which, yes, has benefits.
“Mind wandering increases creativity and divergent thinking, which is the ability to develop novel ideas,” Dr. Gambino explains. “And novel thoughts and creative ideas add richness to our lives that help us solve problems, think outside the box, and have a more well-rounded experience.”
- Georgiou, Michail et al. “Mechanisms of Impact of Blue Spaces on Human Health: A Systematic Literature Review and Meta-Analysis.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 18,5 2486. 3 Mar. 2021, doi:10.3390/ijerph18052486
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