Silent Walks Are My New Mental Health Secret Weapon

I love going on walks, but the world’s a bit too noisy. 

I challenged myself to go on a walk every day this summer and I liked it at the beginning, but I quickly got burnt out because of them. While I ought to spend the time on my walks focusing on my mental health and getting away from work, I end up listening to audiobooks, podcasts, and anything else that will drown out my thoughts. 

This week, I really wanted to stretch myself. I joined an online walking group where everyone was challenged with walking 45 minutes a day. I joined the group because I wanted podcast recommendations since I go through podcasts 1.8 times as fast as anyone else. But then I realized that the majority of the people in the group are in it to improve their mental as well as their physical health. I started seeing posts about women who were going on silent walks to really get away from it all. And I had to wonder, “Are they actually enjoying their walks?”

So this week, I’m ditching my AirPods and walking in silence. I’m very aware that this is not going to be a comfortable week for me…and I’m kind of excited.

What are Silent Walks?

There is a lot of amazing media and entertainment that’s constantly at our fingertips. I love podcasts and audiobooks. My workouts significantly improve every time I put on a playlist. But I think we’ve all begun to drown out ourselves while attempting to consume as much media as possible.
So this week, I’m challenging myself to go on seven silent walks. This means no phone, no AirPods, and no distractions — just me and nature.

Benefits of Silent Walks

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Silent or mindful walks are incredibly beneficial to people’s mental health. A study done at Michigan State University suggests that mindful walks are “a more practical way to relax versus sitting quietly with our eyes closed. Mindful walking can help us be present at the moment and focus on the happenings around us.” Silent walks are a way to help you relax and de-stress from your day.

How to do a Silent Walk

This is pretty self-explanatory — go on a walk, pick a route, and don’t talk to anyone or listen to anything. It might be uncomfortable, especially if you’re not used to the quiet, but that’s why it’s a challenge. 

Be present and listen to your surroundings during this walk. If your mind begins to wander, let it, and listen to where it goes. You might find out things about yourself that you never knew.

Day 1

@cearakirk reasons to do a no-heaphone walk every once in a while 🫶 #walk #hotgirlwalk #mindfulness ♬ original sound – Esteve <3

I quickly learned on my walk earlier today that just because they’re called silent walks doesn’t mean they’re necessarily quiet. I’ve become so used to someone always talking in my ear while I go on my walks that the silence was striking. 

It was so striking that the voice in my head didn’t shut up for the duration of the walk, and I don’t know if it will for the rest of the week.
While my walk was different than usual, I did see the beauty of slowing down and actually listening to myself and my body during it.

Day 2

I almost didn’t go on a walk earlier today. It was supposed to be my day off, and my to-do list was already piling up, so I debated cutting some time where I could. But then I thought about it and realized the purpose of these silent walks is to get away from the world and the pressure and just be in nature.

So, I went, and it was the therapy I needed. I was able to process some thoughts, breathe, pray, and get in touch with my feelings. I know it sounds silly, but I am starting to love this time.

Day 3

@nourishedannie Do these things & watch your life elevate 🙂 #wellbeing #wellness ♬ original sound – Hannah Brown

I needed a silent walk today. I went at around 1:30 in the afternoon and it had already been a chaotic and stressful day. I did itch for my AirPods about one-third of the way through but quickly forgot about them after I re-centered my focus on my thoughts and feelings and how they changed throughout the walk. 

I’m learning that the days I like these walks the most are the days the voice inside my head is the loudest. I’m used to silencing it and drowning it out with other voices, but today it was nice to just sit with my thoughts and slowly process things.

Day 4

I set off today expecting to take a shorter walk, or at least to listen to something halfway through my walk. Earlier today, I really wanted to listen to a bunch of things and I was excited to do so. But as soon as I started my walk, I felt like drowning out my thoughts would be a disservice to myself.

I usually don’t feel at peace on my daily walks. My stress levels actually increase due to how fast I listen to my podcasts and how incessant all the media I consume is. This week, I’ve felt more at peace than ever before. I’ve finally put aside all the distractions and noises that I’ve become so used to and taken the time to just listen to and show up for myself. I chose to double my silent walk time today.

Day 5

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I liked the walk earlier today but really wanted to spend the time listening to my podcasts. There is a time when silent walks are needed and great and I’ve had some moments where I’m very grateful for them. But there’s also a time when you want to spend the hour you’re walking in the heat being entertained and distracted. I don’t think silent walks should be an all-or-nothing thing. 

While I might do these walls occasionally going forward, I think it’s best to introduce moderation into everything. Today, I didn’t want to be alone with my thoughts and the walk wasn’t too pleasant because I kept getting distracted by the to-do list in my head.

Day 6

Nothing seems so bad after I go on my silent walks. I always start feeling exhausted, run-down, and anxious. But then I finish the walk feeling like I could handle the stresses of the day and having formed a game plan for all my tasks. 

I have to be honest, I cried on my walk this morning. These silent walks have been a kind of therapy for me and a cathartic time to process my emotions and feelings. I’m realizing just how little I listen to myself and how often I’ll tune out anything that might be deemed as uncomfortable for me to deal with. 

But this morning, everything came to a boiling point and I let my walk be a moment of release.

Day 7

I finished my final walk this morning and it was bittersweet. I think the times I enjoyed my walks the least were times when I knew I would have to go back home and knock a bunch of stuff off my lists. My walks weren’t the havens I hoped they would be on those days but more like a 30-minute block where I couldn’t do anything productive. 

That being said, I know I’m going to miss these walks in the next few weeks and will most likely do one or two of them a week to balance out the noisy world. 

I’m glad I pushed myself to carve out time from my day to be alone and be present with my thoughts. This week taught me a lot about how often I’ll not listen to what I need in life and, instead, do whatever I can to just rush through life and check off tasks.

My Results

I started these silent walks without knowing what they would mean to me. If I’m being honest, I wanted an excuse to go on a walk and not have a panic attack due to overstimulation. 

While silent walks seem like a simple thing, I had to learn very quickly how to be comfortable with the silence and what came up in my head and heart when I allowed myself to sit in the silence. 

One of my favorite yoga instructors always tells her class to focus on what gets loud when you get quiet, and I think that was something I’ve been avoiding for a long time. 

We live in this wonderful world full of inspiration and media and entertainment. At any given moment, I could listen to a podcast that would tell me all I need to know about any subject. I can plan my entire wedding on my walks because of the device I carry around with me every day. I can call anyone I need in less than 20 seconds and have an hour-long conversation with them. But the downfall of all of that access is that I often forget to check in with myself before I do any of these things. 

So, I know everything about my mom’s week, current events, and my wedding is planned, but I don’t know how I’m feeling. 

These silent walks have been a time when I’ve come home to myself. They’ve been a forced meeting with myself that I’ve put off for far too long. 

Every day I went out for a silent walk and felt like I had something better to do or as though my plate was too full to take 25 minutes of silence was a day when I needed the walks more than I could have imagined. 

Another thing to note is that every day for the past week, I’ve gone on my silent walk with my AirPods. Nothing plays in them, but I wanted an out if I needed it or to be able to play something if I went farther. But every day I’ve gone farther and never turned them on.


Have you gone on a silent walk before? Are you going to now? Comment below!

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