In the realm of wellness trends, a new one’s quietly claiming its position on the center stage: the trend of ‘silent walking’. It’s the practice of merging meditation with movement and not uttering a single word while you are at it. The latest obsession on TikTok offers its practitioners a unique path to mental serenity – where silence becomes your most powerful workout partner.
It all started when TikTok influencer Mady Maio shared her nutritionist’s recommendation of going for a daily 30-minute walk as an alternative to intense cardio workouts. To maximize its advantages, Maio’s boyfriend proposed walking without any distractions. In a video, Maio mentions that he dared her to walk without any distractions- no AirPods and no listening to podcasts or music. Since then, silent walking has grown into a popular movement, with many individuals claiming that it provides them with a chance for solitude and has improved their mental clarity.
What is silent walking?
Silent walking or walking meditation involves walking slowly and mindfully, paying attention to what is happening in the moment. By using the soles of your feet as your anchors, you bring your mind into the present moment, explains Dr. Jitendra Varshney, wellness director at Six Senses Vana, Mumbai.
“You can also practice this activity while moving from one room to another at home or at work, at a slightly slower pace than what you are used to. Walking silently helps awaken our senses and become more aware of our environment," he adds.
As it offers a meditative and introspective experience that is beneficial to one's physical and mental health, it is considered an effective wellness ritual as well. Varshney says, “If you make walking meditation a regular part of your day, it will benefit you in many ways. In addition to keeping your heart healthy, it can improve your posture and make you more flexible. It is also good for your mind - it reduces stress, increases awareness, and brings peace."
Being in the moment
Silent walking is a powerful practice for being in the present moment as it promotes mindfulness and heightened awareness. Dr. Shekhar Reddy, psychologist from KIMS hospital, Hyderabad explains, “When engaging in a silent walk, you intentionally focus on the physical sensations of each step, from the contact of your feet with the ground to the movement of your muscles and the feeling of balance." This sensory awareness grounds you in the here and now, preventing your mind from wandering to the past or the future, Reddy notes.
Additionally, synchronising your breath with your step can further deepen your connection to the present moment. Being attuned to your surroundings, such as the sounds of nature, the sensation of the air, or the beauty of your environment, Reddy says, only enhances this experience.
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In 2022, the World Health Organization reported a 25% increase in the global prevalence of anxiety and depression during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report cautioned that the data could well be an understatement. Recent data from April 20, 2023, further confirms that the pandemic had a severe impact on the mental health of young people and women compared to other groups. Silent walking then can be a valuable tool for reducing anxiety because it encourages mindfulness. “The repetitive and rhythmic nature of silent walking can calm the mind and reduce mental chatter. It is a simple yet profound way to escape the distractions of daily life and find peace in the present," Reddy says.
How to practice silent walking
If you are a first-timer, it is advisable to start with short walks in a quiet, safe neighbourhood. “To maximize the benefits of silent walking, individuals should stay attuned to their breath, posture and surroundings," advises Varshney.
While not extensively researched, silent walking is known to help reduce stress and depressive symptoms, and improve health metrics like HbA1c levels and blood pressure in diabetics. “Establishing a routine is key to success. So, all they need to do to derive the benefits of silent walking is to set aside just 30 minutes each day or week to it," Varshney concludes.
Tanisha Saxena is an independent journalist based in Delhi. She writes stories on the intersection of art, culture and lifestyle.
- FIRST PUBLISHED12.11.2023 | 08:00 AM IST