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Meditative Walks #BeBetter52
With all the stress in our day-to-day lives, it is hard for us to find peace and clarity, and to be 100 percent present in the moment. The purpose of meditation can vary depending on the person, but the benefits are the same on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels.
This week’s #BeBetter52 challenge is to take a meditative walk. Start by setting your alarm to get up 10 to 15 minutes earlier than you normally would. Use the extra time to go for a short walk and practice active/dynamic meditation. By this we mean focusing on your breathing, your surroundings and being present in the moment.
Meditative walks are much more than a simple walk in the park. Before you start walking, take time to be still. Start to become aware of your body and take some deep breaths, inhaling deep into your belly. Put your full attention on your breathing for a couple of minutes. Then let your breathing return to normal and focus on being aware of your body, such as how it feels when you are standing. When you’re finished, begin to walk.
The key is to walk at a slower pace and really focus on everything around you. Focus on the sensations of your legs and feet moving, your breathing, and taking in all the sights around you. Be sure to engage with all your senses -- what do you feel? See? Smell? Hear? Taste? Your attention may at first be drawn to the external sights around you, but it is essential to keep bringing your awareness back to what is going on internally.
Your mind may want to run rampant with thoughts and emotions, but try to ignore them and focus on what’s going on in the moment. This may be difficult at first, but with practice it will get easier.
There are so many benefits to meditation, and people have been practicing it for thousands of years to find peace and clarity! Here is a list of the numerous benefits meditation offers:
- Provides relief from stress and anxiety
- Decreases blood pressure and hypertension
- Lowers cholesterol levels
- Encourages more efficient oxygen use by the body
- Increases production of the anti-aging hormone DHEA.
- Promotes restful sleep.
- Increases creativity and happiness
- Sharpens the mind by increasing focus and expands through relaxation.
For additional info on meditative walks be sure to check out:
Yes, it is hard to get up earlier then you already have to, but devoting time to a morning walk is worth it. You can take an early morning stroll with hot tea in your hand, or you can make it a power walk or even a meditative walk. There are benefits to each type of walk so, best of all, switch it up.
The Be Better Challenge this week is to take a morning walk every day this week. Get up 30 minutes earlier than normal, throw on your clothes and head outside.
A couple of guidelines to your Be Better morning walks: · Try to walk for 30 minutes; but if you can’t fit in a whole 30 minutes, don’t let that stop you. Even a five-minute walk is better than nothing. · Walking with a friend or family member is great, but commit to at least one solo walk. Take advantage of the alone, “you” time. · During the walk is a perfect time to think and reflect on the day ahead. But try at least once to do a meditative walk. This is where you will focus on your breathing, notice how your body feels as you take each step and take note of your surroundings.
Four reasons walking is beneficial to your mental state:
1. Increases happiness. Walking is exercise, and when you exercise, you release endorphins. Endorphins are a chemical that interacts with receptors in your brain. These receptors reduce your perception of pain and trigger a positive feeling in your body. Exercise has been proven to treat clinical depression and can be an effective alternative to antidepressants.
2. Improves mental alertness. Walking improves blood circulation, which includes blood circulation to your brain. According to neuroscience researcher and Harvard University Professor Dr. John Ratey, exercise also elevates brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a protein that plays a major role in how your brain can adapts and learns to overcome new challenges.
3. Allows for meditation. Taking a morning walk allow you to clear your mind before you start your busy day. Sometimes it is hard to make time for yourself during the day, so commit to this time first thing in the morning. Be present, focus on your breathing and become aware of your body.
4. Encourages you to identify with your neighborhood. We live in a culture where we spend most of our time in our neighborhood either in our house or in the car. While walking, greet your neighbors with hellos and eye contact. Taking morning walks will help you feel more like a part of your community.
The physical benefits of walking are highlighted on listdose.com, in the article, “10 Reasons Why Morning Walks are Important for your Health.” Items on the list are: cardiovascular health, stress reduction, overall health, brainpower, muscular strength, management and prevention of diabetes and hypertension, weight loss, reduced risk of cancer, better sleep and a better day.
Why Exercise Benefits Mental Health?
Ever wonder why you feel so much happier and more relaxed after a nice, solid workout? I did, so I did a little research and found the article “How the Three Pillars of Exercise Benefit your Mental Health” by Carrie Steckl, PHD. I wanted to know how exercise on my body affects brain chemicals.
The first category of exercise is cardio and aerobic.
These increase heart rate and oxygen intake. Activities such as running, swimming and dancing (thank goodness) can count as both cardio and aerobic. According to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, increased blood flow to the brain reduces stress and anxiety, and influences glands that increase mood and motivation. No wonder doing the cha-cha puts a smile on your face! Additionally, endorphins are released that reduce our perception of pain and increase our mood.
Aside from a good cardio boost, sometimes I like to do a little resistance and strength training to tone up.
These exercises can include lifting free weights, using machines, or simply doing push-ups. This type of training can also help with anxiety, self-esteem, and improving mental and sleep functioning. Some more tentative information also shows that strength and resistance training can create new brain cells and blood vessels, and increase neurotransmitter output, all of which improves mental functioning!
The last portion of a typical workout ends with some calming stretching and flexibility exercises.
Many people, including myself, choose to do yoga for this activity. Although this type of exercise has the least scientific support, several established research studies prove that yoga can help with stress response through easing heart rate, blood pressure, depression and anxiety while simultaneously increasing energy and well-being! Whether or not stretching has major effects on our mental health, its calming activity is a good way to top off the three pillars of exercise. The next time you're in a blue mood, instead of turning on the TV, go outside for a run, do some lunges and top it off with some yoga to help your mind and body achieve harmony and happiness.