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Maximize your walk routine with mindful movement in nature

By Stephanie Mansour, CNN

With summer weather and the sun shining, getting outside for some fresh air is highly appealing right now. Whether you head out in the morning to get energized for a busy day or in the evening to wind down, you can use this time to engage both body and mind.

In fact, you can easily turn the outdoors into your own meditation studio by simply focusing on aspects of nature and mindful movement while using your breath and imagination.

These meditations can help you feel more relaxed, think more clearly and even help improve concentration and decision-making, studies have found. Each meditation can be done for 60 seconds and up to 60 minutes. Repeat daily as part of your routine or whenever you get the chance.

Feeling stressed? Performing one of these meditations can help you decrease anxiety and improve self-esteem, according to research. Having difficulty sleeping? Mindfulness meditation can help with better sleep, too, according to studies.

Whether you’re looking for a sense of peace or a clearer mind, one of these meditations could be your ticket to a blissful summer.

Important note: Before beginning any new exercise program, consult your doctor. Stop immediately if you experience pain.

1. Walking meditations

Walking is a great form of exercise, and you can make the most of it by practicing a mindfulness technique at the same time. A simple one to start with is a gratitude meditation (see video above). You’ll focus on feeling thankful and making a mental list of things that you appreciate in your life.

If you’re walking on a track, you focus on one thing you’re grateful for on the first lap, then shift to another thing you’re thankful for on the second lap and so on. If you’re walking on a sidewalk, you could focus on one item during each block that you cover.

Another form of meditation is visualization. When you’re on your walk, transport yourself to a place that feels calm and relaxing. For example, while you’re walking along the streets of a loud city or on the quiet streets in your neighborhood, you can imagine yourself in a beach chair on the sand next to the water. Feel your feet in the sand, the wind in your hair and the sun on your face. Focus on feeling relaxed and calm while you walk and notice how the body feels lighter and looser in motion.

2. Smelling meditation

The outdoors in summertime is filled with scents of fresh flowers, trees, freshly cut grass and bodies of water. For this meditation, sit down next to one of these natural elements and get into a comfortable position. Sitting cross-legged with your hands resting on your knees or your lap is the traditional meditation position, but feel free to sit on a bench or even lean against a tree.

From here, inhale through your nose and breathe in the scent of nature around you. After you inhale, pause and hold your breath for a couple of seconds, then exhale through your nose or mouth to release the breath and the scent. As you inhale, begin counting up to four, hold for a count of two, and then exhale for a count of four. Repeat this breath pattern for anywhere from 60 seconds to 60 minutes.

3. Breathing meditation

This breathing meditation uses the breath to help focus the mind and can be done while in motion. So try out this simple breath work whether you’re walking, running or sitting still.

Breathe in through the nose and focus on one word that’s a positive representation of how you feel. This word could be “good,” “relaxed,” “happy” or even “proud.” Perhaps you are proud of yourself for getting outside!

Then as you exhale through the mouth, think about letting go of any feelings that are the opposite of that positive feeling. These could be feeling stress, anger or antsy. Repeat this breath pattern and word association for the duration of your time outside.

Enhance your time in nature this summer with any of these outdoor meditations.

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Stephanie Mansour, host of “Step It Up With Steph” on PBS, is a health and wellness journalist and a consultant and weight loss coach for women.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Health

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