Making the Most of Your Mind and Body this Summer

Meditating in the Summer
After a long winter, most of us are yearning to go outside to bask in the sun, hoping to take full advantage of the warm breeze and fresh summer air. From barbecuing on the deck to morning runs by the lake, we try to enjoy ourselves outside as much as possible. And then something reminds us of our meditation practice. The idea of going inside to sit still can seem dull and reduce our desire to continue practicing. But, rather than lose progress, what if we could find a way to be active, remain outdoors and practice mindfulness? 

Meditating... on the go?

When we think of a meditator, most of us envision someone looking very peaceful, sitting perfectly still. However, what is less discussed is how wonderful meditation and mindfulness can be while performing activities. For some people, the idea of meditating while simultaneously doing something else may seem counterintuitive. However, meditation is the practice of being present, and what better way could there be to remain completely engaged in your activity?

How to Be Mindful While Being Active

Whether you enjoy walking, running, swimming, cycling or a different activity, it’s very likely that you can practice mindfulness while you exercise! Here are a few tips that might help you get started. 
  1. Just like you would warm up your body before physical activity, it’s good practice to warm up your mind before mental activity. Start by creating your intention for the day - what positive, short-term goals have been in the back of your mind recently? This could be to have an effective meeting at work, be a better listener for your partner or be more patient with your child. 
  2. Before you begin your activity, establish a baseline. To do this, focus on your body. How do you feel? Are you feeling strong and energetic? What is your mood like in this moment? 
  3. Begin your activity. How have the first few minutes been? Find your natural pace. 
  4. Now that you’ve gone inward, go outward. What are you experiencing? Feel your five senses one at a time. Look around, and you may begin to notice simple details that you have never thought about before. For the remainder of your activity, become familiar with your surroundings, letting things enter your mind, and then letting them go. 
  5. Once you’ve finished your activity, reflect internally. How do you feel? Do you feel different than your baseline? Does your mind feel calm? Being able to recognize the benefits of your practice can greatly influence your decision to continue with it and turn it into a regular activity.

The Research

You may be familiar with the many benefits associated with a regular meditation practice and those associated with exercise. But you may not be familiar with the research indicating that combining meditation or mindfulness and activity may be more beneficial than performing the two separately. One study compared the benefits of a traditional walking exercise to walking meditation in a group of elderly patients with depressive symptoms. They found that while both treatments increased the patients’ muscle strength and flexibility, only the walking meditation showed reduced scores of depression and lowered cortisol levels. Another study had similar findings, suggesting that seated meditation followed by walking meditation was especially effective in reducing ruminative thought patterns and reducing symptoms of depression.

Enjoy the Warmth!

Enjoy the warm breeze and fresh air, and we hope you have the opportunity to combine mindfulness with activity so you can keep both your body and mind in a present and healthy state!