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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

How Mindfulness can Help You Walk Away from Stress Today

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Feb 9th 2009

happy walkerIt seems like more and more these days I run into people who are rushing from one place to another. They're rushing to get to work, rushing to pick up the kids, and even rushing home to relax. Think about that for a minute, "rushing home to relax". We get ourselves all worked up with our knuckles tightening around the steering wheel, tension building up our backs, becoming irritable at the slow person in front of us, with the hope of finally letting it go when we get home. It seems a bit counterproductive as it takes longer to release this built up tension when we arrive home. In fact, this built up tension and irritability leads to lower patience at home, which if you have a significant other, may make you more susceptible to arguments and amplify your irritability.

In my own practice I often recommend a simple practice to try to make a change in the day. In this practice we're bringing present moment awareness to the act of walking. First we'll start out practicing for a few minutes in the privacy of our own homes and then we'll bring it out into the world.

Here are the instructions:

  • Stand straight up with your knees a bit loose, with eyes facing forward and bringing attention to your breath. To help with attention you can say to yourself "in" as you're breathing in and "out" as you're breathing out. This is just to anchor us to the present moment.

  • Now shift your attention to the soles of the feet, feeling the weight on the feet. Notice if there is more weight on certain areas more than others.

  • Begin to shift your weight on one leg, noticing the change in sensations of the leg and foot. Then shift it to the other leg, noticing the sensations again, then back to center.

  • Begin to gently lift the left leg (you can also start with the right if you like), noticing the pressure moving to the right leg as the left heel and then toes come off the ground.

  • Continue to do this with one foot in front of the other. Sometimes it helps to say "toe, ball, heel, lift" to yourself to sustain attention on what is happening in the present moment.

Practice this at home for a few minutes at a time. Then, when you are walking to or from your car, try and practice this same present moment awareness with your walking. You can move a bit faster than you did when doing this at home, but still slower than normal. As you're doing this in everyday life, try and also bring attention to your senses. You might focus on sounds while mindfully walking or maybe the sites. Feel free to stop and smell the roses if there are any around. When you're in the car on the drive home, ask yourself "am I rushing home to relax?" If the answer is yes, try and bring attention to your breath for a moment, loosen your grip of the steering wheel, and loosen your shoulders. Turn on some good music. Let us know how it goes!

As always, please feel free to share your thoughts and questions about this. Your additions here provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

We can control our emotions.. - Daljit - Jul 17th 2010

This is an excellent article which sums up a very complex issue. Any regular exercise can help you to reduce stress levels, but I feel  yoga is the best. I do find walking also gives me a good kick.

But more important than exercise is to control our thinking and emotions, live in present moment awareness and stop worrying about insignificant things.

If you set a very noble goal in life, most of your problems will look  insignificant.

Daljit

http://www.yoga-for-beginners-a-practical-guide.com

meditation techniques - william smith - Jan 13th 2010

Yoga is a way of life, a conscious act, not a set or series of learning principles. The dexterity, grace, and poise you cultivate, as a matter of course, is the natural outcome of regular practice. You require no major effort. In fact trying hard will turn your practices into a humdrum, painful, even injurious routine and will eventually slow down your progress. Subsequently, and interestingly, the therapeutic effect of Yoga is the direct result of involving the mind totally in inspiring (breathing) the body to awaken. Yoga is probably the only form of physical activity that massages each and every one of the body’s glands and organs. This includes the prostate, a gland that seldom, if ever, gets externally stimulated in one’s whole life.

http://www.coomararunodaya.com

 

Meditation is great for the mind! - Dr. T - Feb 16th 2009

Hello everyone:

 I just recently started making meditation a part of my daily life. I try to meditate on the things that bring peace to my mind or the things that encourage me during times of discouragement. I have a pretty good meditation instructor who constantly reinforces the benefits of mindfulness. We're never truly aware of the many times we do things without being mindful of them. In other words, when is the last time you just sat and ate dinner while savoring every bite and not thinking, reading, worrying, or talking? I was asked this very question and I honestly could not say "uhh...this morning during breakfast." I never savor my food nor do I mindfully capture the moments during the day.

I think we miss out on a lot of life this way. Life can move too fast and for the most part, daily life for the typical adult consists of getting through the day, going with the motions, and getting things done. Never do we really savor the moment and I think mindfulness and meditation are great tools to teach us how to appreciate ourselves, the ones we love and care about, as well as the life we have, or the simple fact of just breathing.

 Best regards.

Check out a meditation practice called: The mindful way through depression (the meditation is not completely for people who suffer from depression, but for all who feel stressed or overwhelmed by worry). You can google it or check Barnes and Noble.

Good luck!

Forgive and Invite - Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. - Feb 11th 2009

Hi James,

It seems like you have a good foundation. Life is always going to throw us curve balls which is going to make our minds and bodies wander from our focus. That is perfectly fine. Where we get stuck is when we berate ourselves for being "a wreck" which then leads us to add fuel to the fire and makes us a "total wreck". Try and let this wandering be and invite yourself now to start anew. This practice takes a commitment, but is very forgiving an understanding when you wander off. If you are doing a formal practice, set up an appointment with yourself like a doctor's appointment. You can start with 5 minutes and up it after a week or two. Many people like to do this in the morning, others choose the evenings. Treat it as an experiment and find what is best for you. Then, you can do it informally, when washing the dishes, wash the dishes. When folding th clothes, fold the clothes. When sitting down, sit down and just breathe. May you be healthy, happy, and have compassion for yourself in this journey.  

Lost Skills - james - Feb 11th 2009

Dr. Goldstein,

When I was in the Navy, I was known as 'The Guru' because nothing got me flustered.  I could flow with each situation and come up with obvious and simple solutions.  I used meditation and breathing techniques to calm my mind and focus.  Now, with children and a marriage, I am a total wreck!  I remember the old 'tricks' but cannot access the rewards.  Is there a link between the tension of the body and the effectiveness of meditation, mindfulness and other such relaxation techniques?  What is the best way to get back to effective meditation?

-James

Personal life - Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. - Feb 10th 2009

Thank you both for your comments. In my personal life I have a regular formal meditation practice and intentionally try to bring a present moment awareness to many of the daily things I do. However, from time to time there are hiccups. When I become aware of them, I really try to come back to my breath and just breathe. If an uncomfortable emotion is there, I try and show  myself compassion, if it's in relationship with another, I try and come back to listening to the other person. I can also forgive myself if I acted unskillfully and invite  myself now to act in a way that parallels my values. It's all a work in progress. Thank you for your question. 

I wonder - Rajesh Yedida - Feb 10th 2009

Dear Doctor,

                 I read your articles frequently. I like the way you provide practcal solutions to many problems. But I often wonder how  you lead your personal life. Being a busy practiotioner, how do you deal with your daily hiccups? 

Regards

Rajesh Yedida

Walking free - Char (PSI Tutor) - Feb 10th 2009

I agree that walking outdoors is a wonderful way to de-stress. Whenever I find things too much or I am becoming depressed~ I head outdoors.

 

Nature has a way of distracting us from our worries an to prioritizing values.

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