Even when it feels as though our world is falling down around us, I’ve often found that nothing helps restore my sense of inner peace like a long, gentle walk, in the fresh air.
Growing up in a little seaside town on the coast of Northern Ireland afforded me the luxury of having a beautiful beach on my doorstep. The house I grew up in was just two doors down from the wild, wonderful, Irish sea. So as you might imagine, my childhood was filled with “beach days” and I spent many years walking the coastal paths with my family and friends.
I am now so thankful for being introduced to the habit of walking from such a young age. Little did I know just how valuable a practice it would become as a maturing adult, wrestling with the struggles of a modern world.
Walking is my solace. It brings me back down to earth and to a place of center. The benefits of walking have long been documented; however, it was only recently that I discovered the concept of “Walking with Intention.”
What exactly is “Walking with Intention”? It basically involves deciding that we are going to “set an intention” for our walk; all we have to do is to stay “aware” of that intention as we’re walking.
For example, you could decide to set an intention to have a walk with “Joy.” That means that while on your walk, you focus on feeling joyful while looking at the trees, feeling the wind on your face, or hearing the birds sing. I realize that might sound a tad cliché, but it really does work.
The practice can be adapted to any environment. You could be walking through the city and stay with the intention of “joy” by noticing children playing on the sidewalk or brightly-colored fresh produce sitting outside a store. As long as you keep a level of focus on your intention to “walk with joy,” that’s really how easy it is.
If you have a problem that you’re wrestling with, simply decide to “press pause” and come back to thinking about a solution after your walk. I find it helps to give my brain “permission” to stay within the focus of my intentional walk.
What I also like about walking with intention is the fact that it can be used anywhere and there’s no equipment needed. You can choose any positive emotion as your intention: gratitude, peace, love, happiness, whatever feels good to you.
This is also a simple way to actively practice mindfulness. For some (including myself) it can be difficult to grasp what being “mindful” means. Walking with intention is a real-world practice that allows us to easily experience it. As mindfulness involves remaining in the present moment and being aware of our surroundings, intentional walking helps us access this beneficial habit on a daily basis.
Walking and mindfulness offer a multitude of benefits:
- Benefits for your cardiovascular health: walking is an aerobic exercise that helps reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Walking can help reduce stress and improve mood, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). Walking can help produce endorphins which help to regulate emotions.
- Better sleep: exercise like walking can help boost the sleep hormone melatonin which encourages restful sleep.
- Walking with intention also helps to connect us with the environment around us and take our minds off any stressful, or anxious thoughts.
- Walking places minimal demands on the body and is accessible to people of all ages and most physical abilities.
As we all strive to juggle the many roles of modern life, we’re looking for easier ways to introduce healthy habits that support our well-being. “Walking with Intention” definitely seems to be one of them.
So if you’re looking for an alternative to high-intensity workouts while discovering a stronger sense of well-being, try “walking with Intention.” It’s guaranteed to leave you feeling closer to your own sense of inner balance.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons