Creative relaxation blog banner showing collage of relaxation activities including painting, travel, reading, camping, playing piano, listening to music, running, and meditating

A Walking Meditation to Help You Find New Ways to Appreciate Life

by | Mar 5, 2020 | Creative Relaxation, Movement for Relaxation | 0 comments

Updated on September 1st, 2022

Walk it off. Well, stress, anyway. Imagine tweaking something as simple as walking to tap into a super-charged relaxation tool. A walking reflection combines the benefits of exercise, nature, intentional breathing, mindfulness, gratitude, and music to improve your mood, attention, memory, physical fitness, and stress level with what feels like very little effort.

Each of these elements makes a great relaxation technique on its own. When combined, though, magic happens! Let me break down how each one helps you manage stress and then provide some direction on the “reflection” part.

Exercise as a Stress Management Tool

Physical movement consistently turns researchers’ heads as a focus for stress, anxiety, and depression studies. Although it has repeatedly proven itself as an effective way to help manage these conditions, it remains underutilized.

No two individuals share the same body chemistry, thought patterns, beliefs, habits, or responsiveness to medications and therapy. Add to the equation how medications and therapy for stress, anxiety, and depression take time to start working and change in effectiveness over time. Exercise shines as a tool to fill in the gaps created by these unpredictable factors to enhance other treatments.

Exercise reduces stress, in part, by bringing closure to the stress cycle. The stress response prepares you to fight or flee, both requiring physical action. If you never follow through on either, your brain may still think that the threat exists. Exercise tells the brain that you did, in fact, react appropriately and it no longer needs to keep the body primed for movement.

The Nurturing Element of Nature

The great outdoors holds a curious power over us, in a good way. Direct access to sunshine, visual beauty, and fresh air lower your stress level in as few as ten minutes! Do I need to say anything else to encourage you to enjoy a walk outside instead of on a treadmill?
Hiking trail framed by orange autumn leaves

Wouldn’t you rather take a walk here?

Breathe in Relaxation

Discard the absent-minded breathing habit most of us practice in everyday life. Replace it with purposeful breaths to tune out thought distractions and feel calmer. To do this, you must actively engage your diaphragm, the muscle that pulls your lungs downward to allow air flow into your body.

Take a big breath right now and notice which part of your body moves the most. Is it your shoulders, chest, or stomach? Movement of your shoulders or chest indicate shallow, stressed breathing. If your stomach moved, or more precisely the area between your belly button and your rib cage, you took advantage of your diaphragm and got the deepest breath possible.

When you inhale, your diaphragm muscle works like the plunger inside of a syringe. It contracts downward, creating a vacuum that causes your lungs above it to expand into the empty space and suck air into your body. As your lungs fill with air, your rib cage expands; and your internal organs get pushed down, making your belly stick out.

Despite defying the social standards of flat-bellied physical beauty, this way of breathing quickly stops the production of stress hormones. When you prevent your abdomen from distending, it keeps you stuck in a pattern of shallow breaths that creates feelings of restlessness and anxiety.

The Impact of Mindfulness in Reducing Stress

Awareness of your body, thoughts and feelings, and environment (a basic definition of mindfulness) plays a key role in the stress management process. It improves your ability to accurately interpret signals from your brain and body warning you of the first signs of stress. The timing of these signals points out your stress triggers, or what causes stress, which then helps you respond faster and prevent the consequences.

In a walking reflection, mindfulness takes shape in a shifting awareness of the various parts of your body. Focusing on a physical sensation also offers a distraction from thoughts that trigger stress, preventing brain fatigue from overthinking. The reprieve your brain gets might appear to be temporary, but even brief shifts toward more positive thoughts build resilience against stress.

Adding Gratitude to Your Relaxation Routine

Practicing gratitude also contributes to resilience by moving emotions in a positive direction. Anxiety, confusion, doubt, and pessimism quickly replace confidence and contentment when stress contaminates your brain. The benefits gained by acknowledging the things you appreciate include better control over your emotions and reduction of the stress hormones flooding your body. Even more surprising, gratitude exercises make you more likely to engage in self-care activities, including exercise.

Music’s Contribution to Relaxation

You may think of music as an optional aesthetic in stress management. In fact, music enhances most relaxation techniques and sets off triggers for relaxation within the brain. In the case of a walking reflection, music coordinates your movement, improves your mood, helps you focus your attention, and grounds you in the present moment. It also distracts you from the physical effort of walking so that you fatigue less quickly and enjoy it more.
Earbuds and smartphone playing music

Use music on your next walk to set your pace and prevent fatigue.

Putting All of the Pieces Together in a “Walking Meditation”

Allow yourself about 20 to 30 minutes to reap the benefits of a walking reflection. Find music you consider energizing and uplifting with a strong beat that matches an easy, steady walking pace for you. Opt for music without lyrics, if possible, so that you keep your thoughts focused on the reflection prompts without inviting constant distraction from the words in the song. Not only could it raise your stress level, it could also leave you feeling drained instead of energized by the end of the walk from dividing your attention.

Swing your arms naturally at your sides, and take a deep breath in through your nose. Pause the breath for just a moment before releasing from your mouth. Keep the back of your throat and nose open when you stop the flow of breath to prevent any unnecessary muscle tension. Drop your shoulders nice and low, especially when inhaling and pausing the breath. Roll your shoulders back and down if you feel them start to creep up toward your ears.

Bring your attention to different parts of your body as you walk. A sequence that flows from one area to a nearby one will help you remember the order more easily in the future. The following prompts increase both internal and external awareness that relate to each body area, making them easy to recall. That way, you won’t need to print out and read the list as you walk. Download the guided walking meditation mp3 straight to your phone to make it even easier:

Woman walking outside with headphones


Don’t worry if the reflection prompts feel difficult at first. It gets easier and faster with practice. Come up with one thought or response to start and increase to two or three new thoughts per prompt on each walk.

Download the complimentary guided walking meditation mp3!

Plus get easy access to more freebies like habit trackers, quizzes, music, and relaxation tips. It's a perk of being a Stress Less Weekly email subscriber.....are you in?

We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.

1. ​Feet

Pay attention to your feet and think of something that makes you excited about the future. Are you making progress toward a goal? Do you look forward to an upcoming trip or milestone in your work or personal achievements? Whatever the source of the excitement, it creates positive ripples of thought for you.

2. ​Legs

Move your attention up your body to your legs. Find a positive belief or value that forms the foundation of your actions, something that guides your decisions in life and makes you feel good about yourself when you follow through on it.

3. ​Stomach

Now focus on your stomach and an inspiration, motivation, or passion that fuels your daily life. Think of this as your purpose as you move through each day. Yes, you can have more than one. The purpose that motivates you at this point in time might not match yesterday’s and may change tomorrow as well, so identify your reason for stepping out in the world today.

4. ​Hands

Give your hands the attention they deserve, too. Focus on something you created with these  hands, literally or figuratively, that makes you proud. What did you build with your own two hands?

5. ​Arms

Put some more muscle into your thoughts as you move your attention to your arms. Name one of your strengths, a quality you possess that carries you through difficult times. Other people in your life may also see this trait as something they rely on.

6. ​Heart

Feel the love, love, love next. Focus on your heart and something or someone that you truly adore in your life, that you accept completely with overwhelming gratefulness.

7. ​Back

Let’s not forget your back here. Think of someone who’s “got your back,” or makes you feel supported and accepted.

8. ​Voice

Your voice, your most powerful vehicle for communication, works hard every day and deserves attention, too. Come up with a positive statement about who you are.

9. ​Eyes

Bring your attention to your eyes next, or rather what your eyes bring inside from the outer world. Find something of beauty around you.

10. ​Ears

Focus on your ears and the music that appears in many forms in your life. Think of a compliment you received recently that sounded like “music to your ears,” whether or not you accepted it gratefully at the time.

Woman in yellow jacket walking on paved path

Exercise, such as regular walks, helps to decrease stress.

Bringing Your Mindful Walking Session to a Close

Check on your breathing often as you walk, taking deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Notice any changes from when you started. Does it feel easier to breathe deeply? Do your breaths feel more rhythmic?

Pause for one more thought at the end of your walking meditation. Finish the statement below with a positive word or phrase to take with you into the rest of your day. Repeat it later to yourself to come back to this moment of focus and connection with your thoughts and body.


Decorative floral letters displaying "I Am" statement


However you choose to finish the sentence, make sure this affirmation feels good to you. Say it out loud or to yourself several times as you finish your walk and throughout the rest of the day!

Meet Brenna

I’m a music therapist, dog mom, nature enthusiast, business owner, introvert, sleep and stress management coach, and research lover. My mission is to help you remove stress as a barrier to better health, greater happiness, and more meaningful connections with the people and passions that make life exciting.

Illustration social links button