Does your average day in the office have you pulling out your hair by 3pm? These tips will have you feeling zen in no time.
Few things are as capable of restoring perspective and turbo-charging your energy levels as taking a brisk walk.
Walking raises your heart rate, improves circulation and boosts your mood. And, if you're having a stressful day, walking is the perfect antidote, leaving you calm, focused and ready to face the afternoon's challenges.
Stress concentrates energy in your head, making you feel overwhelmed. Meditation, on the other hand, involves focusing your mind on one thought and — whenever your mind wanders, or chatters, which yogis call "monkey mind" — bringing it back to that thought.
To turn an ordinary lunch-time walk into a moving meditation, all you have to do is focus your mind on something else. Try these ideas:
1. Count steps
Count the first five steps in your head: "one, two, three, four, five …" At the sixth, begin at one again and count to six. With the seventh, begin at one again, and count to seven. Continue until you reach 10. If you lose count (and don't worry if you do, it's not a race), just start again.
2. Climb something
Find a water tower, a hill, or the highest look-out point in your area. Take in the view from the top, look towards the horizon and forget your worries.
3. Find the four elements
Feel more in harmony with your natural surroundings by finding a place on your walk where you can experience all four elements: earth, air, water and fire. For example, you could walk on the grass (earth) in a park near a fountain (air and water) while enjoying the sensation of the sun (fire) on your face.
4. Repeat an affirmation
Such as "I am moving forward, one step at a time," or "I am breathing in, I am breathing out."
5. Find something new
Life is a journey, not a destination, as the saying goes. Rather than focus on where you're going, be mindful of what you see along the way.
Try straying from your usual route. Set yourself the challenge of finding something interesting and unexpected: it could be a bright red front door, an unusual shrub or a beautiful church.
This exercise makes you focus on the moment and really notice your surroundings, rather than let your mind race ahead to future concerns.
6. Walk with gratitude
As you walk, think of all the things you're grateful for in your life: healthy children, a warm bed, friends, a bird overhead.
Repeat the thought in your head or out loud, e.g. "Thank you for the beautiful bird," or "I'm so glad the kids have got a sunny afternoon for tennis practice".
Sounds simple, but forcing your brain to focus on positive and meaningful things in your life is one of the quickest ways to calm down — it's impossible to feel stressed at the same time as acknowledging all the things you're grateful for.
Video: How to have a stress-free morning