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Walk it off

Meditation is one of the best things we can do for our health and happiness. It’s great for the mind, body, and spirit. Meditation involves focusing on your thoughts and actions in the present and allows you the opportunity to effectively manage your stress and a way to help improve your overall health.

Walk if offNumerous studies suggest that mindful meditation improves mood, decreases stress, and boosts immune function. In fact, Harvard researchers found that training your mind to be clear and calm can produce positive changes in the brain’s areas that are responsible for self-awareness, introspection, and compassion.

Mindful meditation is typically done in a quiet, seated, comfortable space. But many of us feel we can’t spare the time to set everything aside to commit to this type of meditation. Many people live their daily lives as multi-taskers, and often leave little time for themselves. Some people are simply too impatient to sit idle.

If this sounds like you, you’ll be happy to learn that you don’t have to make a huge time commitment to reap the benefits of meditation. If you want to feel less stressed and enjoy life a little more, walking meditation may be right for you. Here’s how to do it:

  • Start by standing still for a minute. Bring your attention to your breath, slowing it down and letting your belly rise and fall. Block out any distractions around you by focusing only on the breathing process. Be conscious of the air simply entering and filling your lungs and then slowly exiting your lungs.
  • Begin walking at a slow to medium pace. Be mindful of how your foot strikes the ground with each and every step. Focus on how your body feels. Make note of how your weight shifts and rolls from heel to toe. While continuing to walk at a comfortable pace, begin to scan your body for signs of tension. Start at the top of your head and work your way down to your toes. As you recognize any tension, take a deep breath and allow the tightness to leave your body as you gradually exhale.
  • Deepen your breath to match your pace. Work toward inhaling for a count of four steps and exhale for a count of six steps. is may take some practice — especially if you’re particularly tense. Once you practice this deep breathing technique you can rely on it for any situation that you may find stressful. is can also be a good opportunity to silently repeat your favorite inspirational saying or a mantra that makes you feel good. It may simply be “I feel good.” Do whatever works for you.
  • Continue walking for 10 minutes. Work up to repeating this process three to five times a week and in no time you’ll be feeling refreshed and relaxed. You can practice this technique almost anywhere — as you walk to your next meeting, in the grocery store, or on the way to your car in the parking garage after work. No one will even know you’re doing it! Use walking meditation as the first step toward a more mindful life. Who knows . . . in no time you may be ready to commit to sitting in that quiet, comfortable place for a little more meditation to keep your stress at bay.

Living Well: Mind, Body & Soul