Thomas Rothwell

Mindful walking

5 April 2019

Eugene Farrell image

Written by Eugene Farrell

Eugene is a highly respected expert in psychological health and wellbeing management.

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Have you found yourself getting anxious and frustrated when you’ve been stuck in traffic or in a queue? Or have you been in a difficult meeting, where you’ve felt your shoulders tense and your heart pound, with your mind flooding with negative thoughts and emotions?

In our busy world, it’s easy to get caught up feeling stressed and anxious over everyday things. We find ourselves getting swept along from one thing to the next without having chance to think, and our immediate reactions can easily get the better of us. Mindfulness gives us a much-needed pause button.

By pressing pause in the moment that we start to feel angry and frustrated, we can change how we view the situation, and then have more control over our reactions. 

The beauty of mindfulness is that you can do it anywhere, at any time – whether you’re in the car, having a shower, or taking a walk. As long as you do it with intention, and really focus on being in the moment and noticing the world around you, you’ll notice that you begin to appreciate what you are experiencing while you experience it.

In this guide, our psychological health expert, Eugene Farrell, tells us how to walk mindfully. Don’t forget, you can be mindful anywhere, this is just one of the ways you can give it a go.  

Walking mindfully

  1. It doesn’t matter whether you’re on a remote ramble or walking to work in rush-hour, you can choose any setting for this practice. 
  2. Take a few steps and then pause. Take a moment to focus on your breathing. 
  3. When you’re ready, begin walking again.  
  4. Don’t worry about what your arms are doing, just try to walk naturally. At first, you might find you need to keep the pace quite slow. Just accept this. You can speed up – and even run mindfully – but it’s good to start at a gentle pace while you get used to the practice. 
  5. Now, rather than instinctively moving your legs, really focus on every move you’re making. Think about how you lift your foot up and place it down further forward, starting with the heel and rolling through the entire sole. Feel your weight move into your front leg as you start to peel your back foot from the floor, from heel to toe. Can you feel the ground beneath you? What can you hear as you walk?
  6. Does each step make a noise? Are there sounds around you? Notice how the cycle repeats as you move along.  
  7. After a few minutes, take a moment to think about how your body feels. Do you have any tensions or sensations? How does the ground feel against your feet?
  8. Now, begin to notice the sights and sounds around you. Focus on the colour of your surroundings, the movements of your body and any noises you can hear. Can you hear people, animals or children? Can you feel the sun or a breeze? Do you notice any smells? Notice how you move into different spaces.
  9. Don’t worry if your mind wanders. Just slowly bring it back to focus, without judgement.

You can practice walking mindfully for as long and as frequently as you like. You might prefer little and often, or one long session – listen to your body and work your practice in a way that suits you.

The technique might feel tricky at first. Don’t be too hard on yourself, some days it will come easier than others. If walking mindfully doesn’t work for you, try another task. What you’re doing doesn’t matter it’s all about making sure you focus on the present. 

Take a break and listen to our Walking Mindfully podcast, guiding you to quickly quieten your mind:

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, why not listen to our Breathing Mindfully podcast.