30-Minute Park Walk to Reduce Stress and Boost Mood

Walking on a Boardwalk in a Park
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Walking in a park can reduce stress and boost your mood far more than walking the sidewalks in an urban setting. Add this 30-minute park walk to your daily routine to reap the benefits of walking in a natural environment.

The Japanese encourage Shinrin-yoku or "forest bathing" to reduce stress and refresh the mind. They have studies that showed clinical measures of reduced stress when walking for 15 minutes in a forested park as well as spending 15 minutes viewing the forest.

Taking a 30-Minute Easy Park Walk

1. Find a Green Space: Look around your area for a park that includes trees and greenery. Even a small space can be beneficial. Use online maps and mapping apps to quickly spot parks nearby (they are usually displayed in green). If only a small area is available, include it on your walk and take a pause there.

2. Wear the Right Gear: Wear clothing that doesn't restrict good walking form. This walk will be at an easy pace, so you could wear any shoes, but athletic walking shoes are best. If you will be walking on a natural trail through the park, you may wish to wear trail shoes for better traction. If it has an uneven surface, you may want to use trekking poles for better balance.

3. Screens Down and Eyes Forward: You need to put away the cell phone and take out the earbuds for this walk. You will focus on the sights and sounds of the natural environment. Start with standing up and check your walking posture so you will be able to breathe fully and deeply. Good posture with head up, chin level and eyes forward will focus your attention on the natural environment.

4. Ease Into Your Walk: This walk will be at an overall easy pace. Walk at an easy pace that feels comfortable. Fall into a natural pace that at your body's own rhythm. This may be faster or slower on different days.

5. Absorb the Sights, Sounds, and Sensations Around You: Open up all of your senses as you enter the park or green space. What are you seeing? What do you hear? What smells do you detect? What do you feel on your skin and through the soles of your feet?

6. Take a Pause: Plan a stop during your walk to sit or stand and deeply observe a green space. Locate a park bench or shaded area where you have a good view of greenery. Look at the pattern of the leaves and branches against the sky. Look for flowers, birds, insects, and squirrels. See the work of the wind, rain, and sun on the plants around you. Observe the ground—rocks, soil, grasses, puddles. Listen for natural sounds as well as the sounds of human activity. Reach out and feel a leaf or stone.

7. Continue Your Walk: Resume your walk. You may take a new path back to your starting point or repeat the same route. You can repeat loops and see how you will detect something new each time. Make a game of finding something new each time.

8. Reflect on Your Observations: Contemplate what you have observed. How does the natural environment affect you? What memories were stirred? What new ideas or plans sprung to mind?

9. Finish and Stretch: Finish your walk and wind down with a simple stretching routine.

10. Plan Your Next Park Walk: Repeating the same walk can be beneficial, but you may also want variety. Check for other parks, green spaces, and trails to explore.

Not only can walking relieve stress, it can also improve your ability to think clearly. Walking with others is a good way to restore a relationship, and you can connect to your spiritual side.

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