Mindful Walking: How to Reduce Stress and Boost Wellbeing with Every Step

mindful walking

Written by Dr. Paul Kelly, C.Psych.              May 22, 2024

Key Points

Mindful Walking is easy. It is a Natural Way to:

  • Take a Stress Break
  • Get Grounded
  • Boost Your Mood

You Deserve to Try It.


Table of Contents


What is Mindful Walking?

Mindful walking is meditation in action. It is a great mindfulness practice for people who find it difficult to sit for a long time.

In mindful walking, you focus on the sensations of walking, keep your eyes open, and take in the sights and sounds around you.

Mindful walking can help you improve your focus and concentration and feel enriched by your connection with nature.

It is also a great way to take a stress break.


How to Practice Mindful Walking

Practicing mindful walking is simple. The best way to learn is to try it. I will show you how. Read each step. Try them.

Then, go through the whole sequence a few times. That will help you get a feel for how to do it.

Let yourself be a beginner. It is okay to reread the instructions to refresh your understanding. The steps will make more sense after you do them a few times.

Remember, this exercise is done with your eyes open. Practice in a safe environment.

Steps to follow

  1. Start Slowly: Begin by standing still. Take a dignified posture, upright but not stiff. Your arms are relaxed. Your knees are bent a little. This is called mountain posture.
  2. Notice Gravity: Let your body settle. Feel yourself connected to the earth.
  3. Focus on Your Feet: Start by sensing the bottoms of your feet on the ground. Then, lift your right foot, move it forward, and place it on the ground. Shift your focus to your left foot. Move it forward and place it. Shift your weight a bit from side to side as you start to walk.
  4. Naming Your Movements: Naming your movements will help you be mindful as you walk. Say these words as you walk: “lifting,” “moving,” and “placing.” You can stop saying the words when your focus is steady.
  5. Notice Thoughts, but Don’t Feed Them: Your mind will wander at times. When you get distracted by thinking, be kind with yourself. Just shift your attention back to the sensations of walking. This will help you to get out of your head and into your life.
  6. Add Sights and Sounds: At first, keep your main focus on your feet. Later, when you can do that without getting too distracted, open your awareness. Let yourself notice the details of sights and sounds. Enjoy your walk and notice your surroundings.


When To Try It

Walking meditation can be blended with regular walking. You can also do it as a separate thing.  Check out these possibilities. Which ones would suit you and your lifestyle?

  • Take a Break: Mindful walking is an excellent way to take a break. Just pick a place to walk for 5 or 10 minutes and be mindful as you move. There are lots of benefits to taking microbreaks. Check out my article to learn more.
  • Green Light: When you walk in the city, use traffic lights to prompt you. Whenever a light turns green, and you start to walk, be mindful of your steps. Notice your feet, and also look and listen – so you can be safe from the traffic.
  • Pet Walks: Practice mindful walking when you walk your dog. Notice your footsteps, feel the leash in your hand, and tune in to the sights and sounds around you.

mindful walking on pet walks

  • Errands and Shopping: When you come out of a store, let the change from inside to outside be your ‘wake-up’ signal. Then, be extra mindful for a few steps.
  • Exercise Walking: Do you walk briskly for exercise? As you walk, notice your feet lift, move, and place on the ground. Then, open your awareness to include all of your body’s movements.
  • Formal Meditation: Mindful walking can be done for 30 or 45 minutes as a formal meditation practice. You might walk in one direction for 20 paces, then turn and reverse your steps. Or you might walk in a big circle. Meditation groups often do mindful walking for 10-15 minutes between periods of sitting meditation.

formal meditation

  • Labyrinth Walking: Are you lucky enough to live near a labyrinth? It can be wonderful to do mindful walking on a labyrinth. Here is a Directory of Labyrinths in Ontario. Give it a try if you get a chance.


labyrinth walking


Physical and Mental Health Benefits

Mindful walking offers numerous benefits for both physical and mental health:

  1. Reduces Stress: By focusing on the present moment, you can reduce stress and anxiety levels. Just shift your focus to sensations when you get caught up in repetitive worry or unnecessary thinking.
  2. Improves Mood: Walking mindfully can enhance your mood and increase feelings of happiness and contentment. Be curious about small changes during and after the exercise.
  3. Boosts Physical Health: Walking is a great form of exercise that can improve cardiovascular health, strengthen muscles, and boost energy levels.
  4. Enhances Mind-Body Connection: Mindful walking helps you become more aware of your body and its movements. You will start to feel more at home with yourself and more connected to your life.


Quotes from Mindful Walkers

Lucas is a college student. “Since I started practicing mindful walking, I feel more grounded and less stressed. It’s become my favourite part of the day. Now I look forward to my morning walk to the subway.”

Sophia is a research assistant. “Mindful walking has helped me connect with nature. I used to listen to my phone when I walked. Now, I appreciate the beauty around me. I don’t miss my phone when I am walking. It is a nice break for me.” – Jason L.

Amelia is a tutor. “I used to rush through my walks. Now I take my time and really notice my surroundings. It has made a big difference. Somehow, I feel more contented.”

(The quotes are accurate. The names and some details were changed to protect privacy.)


A Personal Note

Mindful walking is one of my favourite mindfulness exercises. I walk every day for exercise, and I use the Green Light prompt when I cross intersections. It reminds me to slow down and tune in to my sensations and surroundings.

I am lucky to live near the Trinity Square Labyrinth in Toronto. I do mindful walking there early in the morning. Please join if you are in the neighbourhood. I would be happy to chat with you after I finish my meditative walk.



It is important to me that I give you practical and trustworthy information. That is why I personally selected and reviewed all the sources for this article. My advice is also based on my experience practicing and teaching mindful walking to patients and therapists. We track progress at The Mindfulness Clinic, so I know brief mindfulness meditations, like mindful walking, are worth doing.

  • Teut, M. et al. Mindful walking in psychologically distressed individuals: A randomized controlled trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Volume 2013, Article ID 489856. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/489856
  • Gotink, R.A. et al. Mindfulness and mood stimulate each other in an upward spiral: a mindful walking intervention using experience sampling. Mindfulness (2016) 7:1114-1122. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-016-0550-8
  • Davis, D.W., et al. A systematic review of the effects of meditative and mindful walking on mental and cardiovascular health. (2022) International Journal of Exercise Science. Vol. 15, Issue 2, pages 1692-1734. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-016-0550-8
  • Burdick, A.V. & Camhi, S.M. The effects of a guided mindful walk on mental health in university students. (2024) International Journal of Exercise Science, Vol. 17, Issue 5, pages 390-401. Retrieved from: https://digitalcommons.wku.edu/ijes/vol17/iss5/5
  • Howarth, Ana, et al. Effects of brief mindfulness-based interventions on health-related outcomes: A systematic review. Mindfulness(2019) 10:1957-1968. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-019-01163-1
  • Farb, N. & Segal, Z. Better in every sense: How the new science of sensation can help you reclaim your life. Little, Brown Spark. 2024.