The benefits of meditation range from reducing anxiety to giving your immune system a boost, but sometimes finding time to sit still for 20 minutes seems impossible. Fortunately, if you’re on the go, you can still reap the benefits of quieting your mind. One way to do this is to incorporate meditation into your daily workout. “You don’t have to sit in a quiet place for 20 minutes with your eyes closed to meditate,” says Joy Rains, author of “Meditation Illuminated: Simple Ways to Manage Your Busy Mind.”
Here are some tips for finding opportunities to include meditation in your walking routine:
ASSIGN YOUR WALK A MANTRA
Instead of concentrating on your breath, as you do during a mindfulness meditative practice, try focusing on a mantra. Select a word or phrase that you can repeat to yourself as you walk, and focus your mind on that. “Choose a word that is likely to psychologically prime you in the right direction for the day, such as ‘love’ or ‘peace.’ Pause each time you think the word, wait for its afterglow to fade and then repeat it,” says Jeffery Martin, co-founder of the Transformative Technology Lab for Well-Being at Sofia University. “When your mind drifts, just bring your attention back and say the word again. Drifts happen because of a core rhythm in the brain, and they are nothing to get frustrated about. After a while the brain will settle in.”
TUNE INTO YOUR BREATHS
Breathing is a very important part of every workout, and if you zero in on your breath, it can be a beneficial way to calm your mind. As you walk, Martin suggests making a point of paying attention to your inhales and exhales. “Focus on either how the breath feels flowing into and out of your nostrils, or the rise and fall of [your]chest or belly while you breathe,” he suggests. It may help initially to mentally note ‘in’ and ‘out,’ but you can drop this after a while. “They key is to try not to change the breath, just notice as your body breathes in and out,” says Martin.
COORDINATE WORDS TO MOVEMENT
Taking a walk can be a great way to burn calories and simultaneously clear your mind. To sneak in a dose of meditation, Rains suggests concentrating on each footstep that you take. “Whenever your mind wanders to fears about the past, or worries about the future, gently bring your awareness back to the soles of your feet hitting the ground, even if it’s as often as every few seconds,” she says. To concentrate, you can coordinate words to your movements. “As you lift your right leg, silently say ‘lifting.’ As you move your right leg forward, silently say ‘moving,’ as you place your foot on the ground silently say ‘placing,’ and as you shift all your weight to your right foot, silently say ‘shifting,’” Rains explains. After you finish on one side, begin the process again with your left leg. Continue silently repeating these words to yourself as you continue to walk.
INCORPORATE MINDFULNESS INTO YOUR COOLDOWN
“One of the benefits of exercise is increased neuroplasticity. In other words, your brain is primed for its own workout after you finish your physical one,” says Martin. “Scheduling some time for meditation immediately after you exercise allows you to take maximum advantage of effects it can provide.” Take a moment following your workout to wind down and bring yourself back into your daily routine. This can even be done while you are resting on the mat to stretch. To achieve this, Rains suggests sitting in a comfortable position, gently lowering your eyelids and bringing your attention to the feeling of your breath moving in and out of your body. She notes that the benefits can be felt “in just a few minutes.”