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5 Walks to Boost Your Mental Wellness

Take these steps to exercise your body and mind.

3 Min. Read | Home & Backyard

Everyone knows that walking outside is good for the body, but according to our partner, Mental Health America, it’s one of the best things you can do for your mental wellness too: “Even short walks in nature can improve well-being if you make them a habit. Ten minutes here and ten minutes there can really add up and can lead you down the path to becoming mentally healthier.” It’s not just putting one foot in front of the other; it’s about how you engage your mind while you do it.

We’ve identified five different “routes” you can go down to create the perfect walking wellness routine – easy outdoor exercises to give your mind-body connection a well-deserved boost. Most of these practices require a slow, deliberate pace, and can be as easy or challenging as you’d like, making them extremely accessible. Simply step outside and start moving!

1. Silent Walks

This experience is all about taking the time to detach yourself from the fast pace and everyday stress of your life and focus on finding the silence in your mind. Walk slowly and step softly, letting your thoughts pass by as you redirect your mental energy on moving quietly through the environment. And since nature isn’t inherently silent, you can recruit it to help if your mind starts wandering to negative or anxious places. Let unseen birdcalls, leaves rustling in the breeze, or even the hum of cars, bring you back to the here and now.

Go it alone or with a group – the only guidance here is to stay completely silent. Remember: this is your meditative moment. You can use a few minutes after the walk to reflect on your individual experiences.

2. Mindfulness Walks

Often performed in a place of quiet and stillness, mindfulness is the practice of bringing your attention to the present moment. But when you add in the act of walking, it becomes an exercise in awareness of both space and self – a time to appreciate your surroundings and how your body and mind feel while moving.

While our Silent Walk uses the stir of the natural world to help you refocus your mind, a Mindfulness Walk makes the environment your primary focus. Let yourself melt into the sights and sounds of your walk, activating all your senses. If your mind starts to drift, feel free to come back to the movements and sensations of your body before returning your focus to the outdoors. By the end, you should feel calmer, more focused, and less stressed.

“Grounding yourself in your environment helps pull you out of any difficult thoughts and focuses you on the here and now.”

Mental Health America

3. Social Walks

Walking alone is great for focusing wholly and completely on the self, but at the end of the day, human beings are social creatures. Research has shown that social connection is crucial to one’s mental well-being. By walking with another person or a group, you can enhance the benefits of walking, satisfying your inherent need for connectedness to others and to the environment itself.

As part of a community with a common interest, you’ll benefit from feelings of mutual trust, respect, understanding and cooperation. The relationships you build with your fellow walkers will also encourage a sense of shared camaraderie, so you can feel comfortable using these outings to seek advice and support when you need it.

And if you can’t meet up with friends or family, you can always find and follow them on the Strava app to celebrate each others’ outside achievements.

“One benefit to walking with friends is increased motivation. Meeting friends can encourage you to get out and get your walk in.”

Mental Health America

4. Learning Walks

Walking has plenty of benefits, but one that flies under the radar is that it’s the perfect time to be productive. The prevalence of podcasts on every subject matter imaginable and audio books or music in every genre gives you an opportunity to engage your brain, relax your mind or learn something new – depending on what you choose to listen to. Getting lost in an episode or an album won’t just exercise your mind, it can keep you moving longer, making even the most familiar paths feel like a whole new journey.

5. Wander Walks

There’s something exhilarating about walking without a destination. Next time you head out, go left instead of right. Turn up an unfamiliar side street. Cut through a park you’ve never visited. Going for a wander lets you enjoy being outdoors without pressure or expectations. New surroundings create a heightened sense of wonder and awareness. You might even find a new favorite area to return to and explore.

Simply relax your mind and let your body lead the way. Don’t think, just move. While you might not be walking anywhere in particular, you’re definitely going somewhere.

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