Imagine taking a walk, but instead of chatting or listening to music, you walk in complete silence, hushing external distractions, and paying attention to every step. Keep it up, if you are already a silent walker.
Silent walking, a trend that has gained traction on social media, is about finding calm and a sense of stillness amidst our busy schedules. Walking without being distracted offers a chance to slow down the overactive mind and tune into nature.
“While this trend may not be a therapeutic intervention, it offers a gentle nudge towards a more mindful life, reminding us of the simple joys of being present,” says Dr Mahima Sahi, chief psychologist at heyy, a Singapore-based mental health care app. From a clinical perspective, Sahi says that intentional pauses like these can create a conducive space for us to reconnect with our surroundings, thoughts, and emotions.
Happiest Health shares five benefits of silent walking and add a touch of peace to our daily routine.
Stress reduction & relaxation
The physical and mental effects of unmanaged stress are undeniable. “When we consciously devote time to relax, we not only mitigate the physical manifestations of stress but offer our minds a respite, a much-needed escape,” says Sahi.
“It’s a restorative interval, allowing our mind and body to recalibrate, preparing us to face the world with renewed energy and a more balanced perspective,” says Sahi. The slow, deliberate pace of walking helps reduce stress levels and induces a state of relaxation. According to Sahi, engaging with nature, even if it is a simple walk in the park, is an enriching experience, grounding us and providing a sanctuary from daily stresses.
Even a 2019 study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology highlighted that exposure to natural settings can decrease cortisol (stress hormone) levels and improve mood.
Mindfulness & presence
Mindfulness is about a conscious immersion in the now and an appreciation for life’s nuances without judgment. According to Sahi, by consistently grounding ourselves in the present, we develop an emotional resilience that shields us from life’s adversities and potentially enriches our daily experiences.
Silent walking does exactly this. It helps us cultivate mindfulness by drawing attention to each step, the sensation of walking, the sounds of nature or the surroundings. This heightened awareness of the present moment can help individuals let go of worries about the past and future, and stay rooted in the present moment.
As someone who loves walking, when the trend of silent walking went viral on social media, Musammet Fatima Begum, 23, student from London, United Kingdom decided to give it a try. “When I started off, honestly it was a little uncomfortable since I always listened to music or podcasts on my walks,” she says.
She had no idea about how to just relax or be present around nature as it was kind of boring for her. “It took me a couple of days to get used to it but once I did, I started noticing tiny things around me which can give me so much joy,” Begum says. Her favourite part of silent walking was being able to appreciate small birds chirping together and dragonflies flying together in rhythm. It has taught her to be more present which makes her enjoy the moment more. “I don’t think I ever realised what it really means to be present before silent walking, it helps me slow down and take in each moment,” she admits.
Improved mental clarity & focus
Connecting with nature can act as a therapeutic channel for one’s mental well-being. A National Center for Biotechnology Information research has recognised the benefits of green spaces, emphasising their role in reducing the global burden of mental illness.
By focusing on walking, we can temporarily set aside mental distractions and achieve a clear, focused mind. “By affording our mind intervals of stillness, we pave the way for rejuvenated cognitive function,” says Sahi. This can lead to improved decision-making, problem-solving, and overall improvement in one’s cognitive function.
Patience & acceptance
Silent walking helps us practise patience, acceptance and how to let go. According to Sahi, it teaches individuals to accept the pace of the walk and be patient with their thoughts and emotions, promoting a more compassionate approach to oneself and others.
Self-reflection and emotional processing
Silent walking provides an opportunity for introspection and self-reflection by giving us a peaceful environment to reflect on our thoughts and emotions at a mindful pace.
Taking time to understand our feelings helps us become better at handling our emotions. “Silent walking helps us understand our triggers, reactions, and the complex patterns of our mind,” says Sahi. This can aid in emotional processing, self-awareness, and gaining insight into personal challenges or concerns.
A challenge at first, once we make a habit of silent walking, it can help us embrace ourselves appreciate the beauty of being present better. You can start with a friend or family but try to be quiet throughout the walk and remember not to hurry. Find a nice spot, take a quiet walk, and enjoy the peace within.