The humble walk has been stripped back to add mental health benefits. Here we explore the silent walking trend and how it could support your wellbeing
There are a lot of trends and buzzwords in the wellness industry these days, but often when you look past the label you see it’s just about reframing something. For example, silent walking may seem like a shiny new trend people on TikTok are raving about, but when we look past the label, it’s just an idea that gives the activity of walking a mental health boost.
Silent walking is all about going for a walk without your headphones and without talking to someone. It’s usually a solitary activity, but of course, you could go with others if you agree to keep quiet throughout the walk.
The aim is to shut out the ‘noise’ of everyday life, become more aware of the environment you’re in and enjoy what happens without distraction. Silent walking can also be considered a type of meditative walk as it encourages a sense of mindfulness.
We all know how beneficial walking can be for our physical health, but what happens when we add the silent element?
1. It increases your opportunity to be mindful
As mentioned, this type of walking can be meditative. When we let go of our headphones and conversation, we create space to really take in what’s around us. We can tune in to the sounds in our environment (this may be rushing cars on a road or birdsong, depending on where you’re walking), what we see (colourful flowers, stonework on buildings or wisps of clouds), and even what we feel (the sun on our skin, a cool breeze, the ground beneath us).
Becoming more mindful in this way brings us into the present moment which can be helpful for our mental health. Countless studies highlight the impact mindfulness meditation has on decreasing anxiety and depression, and silent walking could form part of this mindfulness practice.
2. It helps you switch off from technology
Many of us spend large portions of the day attached to technology in some way, whether we’re working on a computer, watching TV or listening to a podcast. All of these things are absolutely fine, but it can be nice to take a break from time to time.
Ditching your headphones on your walk can be an easy way to do that. You may not want to leave your phone at home (many of us like the security of keeping it with us, but this is a personal choice of course) but you may want to turn it on silent and aeroplane mode to help you really switch off.
Coming away from the online world in this way and embracing the quiet that comes with it can help us check in with ourselves, our own thoughts and how we’re doing.
3. It improves self-awareness
With the above in mind, silent walking can be a great way to work on our self-awareness. You may find that without the distraction of technology, your mind is free to wonder. At first, your inner voice may seem quite loud as it tries to fill the silence. As you get used to silent walking, however, you should find it settles down.
Some walks may be about tuning into mindfulness and letting your mind be still, others may be an opportunity to ask yourself how you’re doing and what you need.
4. It helps to reduce stress
The physical act of walking alone can help to boost endorphins and lower stress. When we add the element of quiet, this is enhanced. Being surrounded by noise 24/7 can increase our stress hormones, so taking a quiet break from time to time can make a big difference.
Learn more about the benefits of silence.
Now, silent walks aren’t necessarily silent, but they tend to be quieter than our everyday lives. To take advantage of this, make your walks as quiet as possible, perhaps by getting up early or choosing routes in nature.
5. It inspires creativity
When we’re trying to force creative thinking or solve a problem, we can become tense and stressed, as our thinking gets tied up into a big knot. Changing up your environment and getting away from any problems often helps our mind relax and slowly untie that knot. Ironically, not thinking can be a great way to think of something new.
Giving yourself some physical and mental space to ponder through silent walking can therefore be a great way to encourage creative thinking.
Get started by trying the odd walk without your headphones and see how it feels. It can take a little time to get used to this way of walking. Your walks may feel longer than usual at first and you may even find yourself getting bored. Try to stick with it though, lean into the mindfulness element and in time you’ll adjust and, hopefully, start to relish it.
Make it a habit by anchoring it into your routine, perhaps a silent walk before work can help you get into the right mindset for the day. Find what works for you and hey – enjoy the quiet.