Forest bathing or shinrin-yoku is the Japanese term for taking in the forest atmosphere while walking among trees. In Japan, forest bathing has been promoted in recent years as preventative medicine for spiritual connectedness and overall health.
Here in the states, it is recommended to walk 10,000 steps per day, which correlates with how much exercise you should have per week.
Whether walking in a forest, on a walking path, a busy sidewalk in the city or even through the halls at your work, it’s important to be mindful.
Mindful walking can be looked at in two ways:
- Being mindful of what’s going on around you
- Being mindful of what’s going on with your body.
However, in order to get the most benefit and avoid injury, you should really look at it both ways.
The first way – being mindful of what is going on around you – is all about being aware of your surroundings. In order to maintain this awareness, you should keep your eyes focused 5-10 feet in front of you at all times. This will help you notice any changes in the terrain, such as a sudden shift in the height of the sidewalk, curb, or a tree branch. You should also keep your ears alert for sounds of vehicles, bicycles or other people coming up behind, in front of, or around you.
Being aware of your surroundings is easy to do when you’re walking in nature. For example, when walking on a trail through the woods or the paths at the Botanic Garden, notice the sights, beauty and sounds around you:
The color, texture, and greenery of the flowers
The shape, size, color of the trees, tree trunks, and bark
The color, size, and shape of the leaves
The smell of flowers, the forest floor, or animals
The sounds of birds, squirrels, and insects
Added benefits of walking in nature
- Time for reflection
- An escape from technology
- Stay grounded and present in the moment
- Improve overall health such as lowering blood pressure
Now, it’s easy to tune-into a state of mindfulness when you’re in a place of beauty. On the other hand, being out in a world made of concrete can be more challenging and may require more vigilance. No matter your environment, it is important to be mindful of your surroundings in order to stay safe.
The second way to look at mindful walking is to be aware of what’s going on with your body. How you are using your body is important for walking, whether for exercise, pleasure, or just getting from point A to point B.
Here are some helpful tips to improve your body awareness while walking, which will keep you safe from injury as well as recover from injury.
7 Tips for Mindful Walking
- Wear good, comfortable walking shoes
- Keep your eyes focused 5-10 feet in front of you
- Avoid wearing headphones to be more aware of your surroundings
- Swing your arms from your shoulders, not your elbows
- To improve stability, pretend you are walking on either side of a traffic line
- Tune in with your abs every 5-10 minutes, are they engaged? This will eventually become an unconscious action
- As you step forward, push ground away and back, through your big toe, engaging your glutes
Next time you go out for a walk, even if it’s somewhere that’s not particularly serene, try using these seven tips to improve your mindfulness as you move. By practicing these tips consistently every time you go for a walk, eventually you’ll find mindful walking will come more naturally.
For more tips on mindful movement, check out my free eBook, Mindful Tips for Pain-Free Daily Movement.