Exercise and mental health have a strongly significant connection. Movement is a natural reaction to stress. In studies on stress and exercise it has been shown that coping strategies for those subjects who exercised improved significantly compared to those who did not. Walking provides a time to reflect on our feelings, a time to be quietly alone with our thoughts, a time to work through problems that are to itchy to sit with.
The practice of mindful walking with an emotional agenda will strengthen your body, challenge your mind and free your spirit. To be mindful while you walk means you are walking with awareness of both an internal world and the external world, not caught up in one or the other. Your emotional agenda will be whatever issue you are trying to define or resolve in your life.
Focus and Pace
When you practice mindful walking you become aware of thoughts, feelings, and actions as part of a multidimensional world. The exploration of this territory includes observing your pace and focus; listening to your thoughts; allowing your feelings to be whatever they are. You can learn about your focus and pace patterns through self-observation. Practicing conscious change of focus and pace gives you choices of when, where, and how to interact.
Self-observation is easier when you are in action. It is easy to find “focus” areas. the inner focus of self-absorption can become a cue to get out of yourself or go further in to find the source. Looking too far ahead or into fantasy is a cue to move back into the present. Moving too fast can cause oversights. Not wanting to move can be a sign of depression.
The Basic Technique — Using Focus and Pace
Use your eyes to focus at specific distances as you walk. Eye focus helps keep you within the space being explored as you experience different internal or external processes. A general guide for these areas and their psychological implication is listed below:
Inner Focus — your body and immediate surrounding area. This area is for self and intimate relationships only!
Middle Ground — two to four feet ahead. This is an interpersonal and personal area.
Larger View — four to eight feet ahead and further. This is very public.
The three areas of focus each have a specified pace for walking. Three paces work with the three focus areas as a pattern for rhythm and reflection.
A very slow pace with an internal focus will allow you to go deep within to connect with a particular issue that you need to work with.
The moderate pace in a middle ground focus facilitates integration of your internal world with the environment. A moderate pace and a middle ground focus bring the parts and the whole together for a healthy mix of emotions, ideas and potential actions.
The rapid pace works with the larger focus area that is highly externalized. In this pace you encounter more assertive levels of thoughts and feelings. The rapid pace will accommodate ideas that need to be acted on. this pace gives clarity to choices of action or non-action.
Walking therapy is best experienced and not read. The dynamic of your thoughts and feelings will give you cues that can help you discover your next step whether it is further investigation or action. I hope you will try a mindful walk in the three paces and focus areas. When you are the observer, you are the best therapist.