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Mindful Walking

Mindful walking refers to the practice of being aware of the environment around you and how your body and mind feels while moving.

Man Walking in Fields

What is mindful walking (American Psychological Association, 2023)?

  • Mindful walking refers to the practice of being aware of the environment around you and how your body and mind feels while moving

  • Instead of hurrying and rushing, mindful walking allows one to pay attention to bodily sensations and use these sensations to note and appreciate one’s surroundings

  • At least 20 minutes of mindful walking improves mood, reduces symptoms of stress, improves immunity, benefits heart health, and reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression


History of mindful walking (Sutton, 2020)

  • Mindful walking and meditation first surfaced in Japan in the 1980’s

    • This practice was formally known as “forest bathing” (or shinrin-yoku)

  • Forest bathing is a treatment that was originally used for burned-out technology workers in addition to a way to reconnect society with Japan’s extensive network of forests

    • The journey is less about the destination, and more about bringing awareness to one’s body and everyday activity

  • Though forest bathing requires an environment of nature’s beauty, researchers have found that mindful walking can be performed anywhere as long as the individual stays present and mindful throughout the walk

    • It does not matter where you are physically, it matters where you are mentally


How to walk mindfully (Allina Health, 2023)

  1. Before your walk, stand still and focus on your breathing for a few minutes  

    • Make note of how your whole body is feeling

  2. As you begin your walk, focus all your attention on the sensation and movements in your body

  3. Become aware of the way you carry your body (e.g., the feelings in your feet, arms, chest, and head)

  4. Once you are connected with the sensation in your body, expand your attention toward the sights and the environment around you

  5. If you get distracted by other thoughts, simply bring your attention back to your footsteps, your breath, and other bodily sensations

  6. When you are finished with your walk, reflect on how you feel.

    • Do you feel more energized?

    • Do you feel calmer?

    • Do you feel focused?


*It is recommended that a mindful walk should be 20 minutes or longer


Benefits of mindful walking (Sutton, 2020)

  • A study conducted by Penn State University found that being mindful of breathing, bodily movement, and senses of your surroundings while walking boosts overall mental well being

  • Mindful walking increases the brain’s neuroplasticity which is the brain’s ability to change and adapt

    • Neural pathways from our conscious thoughts are strengthened which improves symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression (Advanced Performance, 2022)

  • Studies show that regular mindful walking reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety in addition to the feelings of mental relaxation and feelings of “awe”

  • Other benefits:

    • Lowers the risk of:

      • Coronary heart disease

      • High blood pressure

      • Stroke

      • Type 2 diabetes

      • Metabolic syndrome

      • Colon and breast cancer

      • Hip or vertebral fracture

    • Greater likelihood of:

      • Higher cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness

      • Achieving weight maintenance

      • Maintaining a healthier body mass and composition




Crisis Resources:

  • NAMI HelpLine

  • NAMI Crisis Text Line

    • Text NAMI to 741-741

  • COPE (Hennepin County)

    • Adult: 612-596-1223

    • Child: 612-348-2233

  • Ramsey County

    • Adult: 651-266-7900

    • Child: 651-266-7878

  • Text Connect (Crisis counseling via text)

    • Text “HOME” to 741741






Advanced Performance. (2022). How can mindful walking change your brain?

Allina Health. (2023). What is Mindful Walking?

American Psychological Association. (2023). Mindful walking.    


Nelson, C. (2021). What is mindful walking, and how can it improve your mental health? GoodRx Health.    


Sutton, J. (2020). Mindful walking & walking meditation: A restorative practice.


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