The next time you head out for a hike or walk, amp up the benefits by turning your trek into a meditation. On top of the physical activity and energy boost, you may also experience additional mental health perks. Studies suggest that being outdoors may help decrease anxiety and depression, increase feelings of well-being, and bring a sense of restoration. Research also links meditation with these same benefits. So why not combine the two into a moving meditation?
“There are many different ways to meditate,” explains Yael Shy, author of What Now? Meditation for Your Twenties and Beyond and senior director of MindfulNYU. “Movement meditation is any effort to stay present and in the moment as you are experiencing it while moving.”
Yoga can be considered movement meditation, she says. You can also turn any walk, bike ride, or other activity into a meditative practice. Here are three ways to do so with your next hike.
Focus on your feet. “Pay full attention, as much as you can, to each step as you take it—where your foot is going, the elevation change, what’s around your foot,” Shy says. You may also wish to slow down, especially at the start of your hike or walk, and notice the movement of your muscles as you take each step. For this type of moving meditation, the destination often matters less than the overall experience.
Sense your senses. For a sensory-rich hike or walk, open your attention to what you are seeing, hearing, smelling, and perhaps even touching and tasting. Take notice of the movements of your body, your heart beating, and how the air feels on your skin. Let these things come into and out of your awareness, Shy says. You don’t have to focus on all of this at once; instead, find what feels best to you and what helps to bring your mind away from any distracting thoughts so you can be fully present during your hike.
Add an element of gratitude. With every step or breath, note something you are grateful for, Shy suggests. This could be your body, your breath pumping through you, the trees in front of you—anything! With this practice, you’ll not only enjoy great views and sweat, but you’ll also have a long appreciation list by the end of your hike.
“The common thread through all of these hiking meditations is that you are not just lost in the random thinking the mind likes to do,” Shy explains. “Thoughts will happen. But try over and over again to bring your attention back to this moment and what you’re experiencing. That’s what makes it meditative.”
You’ll likely find that any of these practices will help you actually experience and enjoy your hike, rather than spending the entire time thinking about when you’ll reach your destination, or getting there and realizing you weren’t truly paying attention and missed out on everything.
To guide you on your moving meditation, join Fitbit Premium to try these tracks:
- Walk to Decompress from Ten Percent Happier
- A Mindful Walking Exercise from Aura
- A Brief Mindful Walking Meditation for Aura
Find them in the Mindfulness section of the Discover tab.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.