Silent walking, the act of taking a walk without distractions, has been trending on TikTok and other social media platforms for months.
Although walking in silence was the norm for centuries, walking unplugged may seem foreign or awkward in our content-driven, always-on society.
Yet, walking in silence is an accessible and powerful way to support physical, mental, and emotional well-being while fostering a deeper appreciation of nature.
Here, we explore the benefits of silent walks, plus five other ways to help keep your peace in a distracting world.
The Benefits of Silent Walking for Body, Mind, and Spirit
Except for chatting with a partner, whistling, or singing as they walked, our ancestors walked in silence for most of their lives.
Then came technology like vehicles, radios, earphones, walkmans, Discmans, iPods, cell phones, smartphones, and podcasts, and everything changed.
Some people still choose to walk or jog outdoors without earbuds or Earpods, but they have become the exception until now.
The new silent walking trend was sparked by TikTok founder Mady Maio, who began the practice as an alternative to more grueling cardio routines. She soon noticed a big difference in her overall well-being and began sharing her experience.
Thus, the “new” trend of silent walking was born.
Although people of many cultures and religions have practiced silent walking long before TikTok recommended it, silent walks as a form of meditation can be traced back to Buddhism.
Buddhist monks, for example, have used silent walks to deepen awareness and appreciation of the natural world.
The benefits of regular walking have long been established. However, various experts believe silent walking has its own set of benefits.
1. Silent Walking Helps Reduce Stress
Most people exercise to stay fit and lose or maintain a healthy weight.
However, one of its most powerful and underappreciated benefits is as a stress reliever.
Studies suggest silent walking outdoors in a natural setting may have additional benefits.
For example, research has shown that walking in green spaces for just 20 minutes to an hour can help:REF#3133 REF#3134
- Lower stress hormones
- Reduce activity in the brain regions involved in stress processing
- Lower blood pressure
- Improve mood and mental outlook
- Reduce tension and anger
- Enhance focus and attention
- You stick to your walking routine better than if you walked indoors
Plus, reducing exposure to noise, devices, and screen time has also been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety in adults, children, and teens.REF#3135 REF#3136
Imagine, just one silent walk in nature may help you reap all these benefits and more.
2. Silent Walking Fosters Connection with Nature
Technology has connected us to each other and current events more than ever. Yet, the average person tends to lack any sense of meaningful connection with nature.
This disconnection is evident in the ecological challenges we face, many of which are believed to be caused and/or exacerbated by humans.
How different could the future be if we spent more time observing and participating in nature and less time ignoring it?
Silent walking is the perfect way to reconnect with nature no matter where you live. It can be done in urban parks and trail systems, forests, nature preserves, or your own property.
Walking in silence without artificial distractions opens our eyes to the beauty and miracles around us.
We may not notice these things at first. Still, as we get comfortable with the silence, we soon become more aware of birds and their unique calls, bugs, different types of trees, flowers, the changing seasons, smells and scents, the clouds, changes in temperature, leaves falling, nature sounds, and even wildlife.
There is no better way to reconnect with nature than by observing, appreciating, and participating in her living beauty.
Again, you need not live in a rural area to do this. Parks, nature trails, and public gardens are ideal places to slow down and observe nature within an urban setting.
3. Silent Walking is a Form of Mindfulness
If sitting cross-legged and meditating on the sound of “om” isn’t your thing, silent walking may be your ticket to developing a meaningful mindfulness practice.
With a little practice and focus, silent walking can become a form of mindful movement or active meditation.
The whole point of mindfulness is to slow down and become aware of your breath and the space around you without being distracted by thoughts, pinging phones, or other disturbances.
This doesn’t mean you have to sit still with your eyes closed.
All it requires is paying attention to your breath and focusing on what’s around you versus getting tangled up in your thoughts.
For example, as you’re walking, pay attention to the cadence of your breath, the smells around you, and how the ground feels under your feet.
If you have thoughts creep in (which everyone will), try to picture them just gliding by like clouds in the sky and re-focus on what surrounds you.
Mindfulness has been associated with health benefits, including but not limited to: REF#3137 REF#3138
- Improved behavior self-regulation
- Increased feelings of happiness
- Less anxiety
- Better mood
- Less pain
- Better sleep
- Increased empathy
- Improved cognitive function
- Improving attention and focus
- Lower blood pressure
- Reductions in stress hormones
- Weight loss
- Reduction in negative self-talk
- Decreased psychological stress
This gives new meaning to the old tradition of walking to clear your head! It appears silent walking accomplishes this and so much more.
4. Silent Walking Fosters Creativity
The next time you are unable to come up with a creative idea or solution, try a silent walk.
New research has shown that the human brain needs time and space to daydream for optimal function.REF#3139
This is why many people report having their biggest “a ha” moments while in the shower or lying on a beach.
When we daydream, think for pleasure, or “free think,” we allow our brain a much-needed break from daily left-brain-oriented tasks, which nurtures our creative right-brain side.
Silent walking is the perfect opportunity to put your brain on autopilot while you move your body, which also supports normal brain function.
Yes, this differs from mindful walking discussed previously, but both practices benefit brain function and help keep silent walking interesting.
5. Silent Walking Can Help Create Peace of Mind
Attaining and maintaining peace of mind can be difficult in a world of 24/7 new alerts and distractions.
An overstimulated mind can make sleeping, relaxing, and focusing challenging for adults and children.
Silent walking is one way to help cultivate peace of mind whenever needed.
Combining calming mindfulness, cleansing fresh air, and grounding time spent in nature can quickly shift your mindset from stressed and overactive to creative and peaceful.
As previously discussed, research has linked walking, mindfulness, and time in nature to various improved psychological and cognitive outcomes.
5 Complementary Ways to Keep Your Peace, Naturally
Silent walking is an excellent form of self-care, physical fitness, and stress relief all rolled into one.
If you’re interested in amplifying the benefits of silent walking, here are five complementary practices to try.
1. Forest Bathing
Forest bathing, also known as shinrin-yoku in Japan, is a sensory self-care practice in which you spend time absorbing the sights, scents, sounds, etc. of the forest. This could mean hiking, camping, or silently walking through the trees.
The practice originated in Japan as a way to attract tourists to local forests and has become an international practice.
Studies suggest forest bathing may provide some specific benefits, including REF#3140 REF#3141 REF#3142
- Enhanced production of natural killer cells (immune cells) via the effects of phytoncides—natural essential oils found in various trees
- Enhanced production of anti-cancer proteins
- Stress relief via the production of cortisol
- Lowering blood pressure and heart rate
- Reduction in stress hormones
- Balance of the nervous system
- Better sleep
- Reducing mental stress
- Improved mood and mental outlook
Forest bathing and silent walking (and their benefits) can be combined by taking a simple walk or hike in the woods.
2. Nervine Herbs
According to traditional herbalism, nervines are a type of herb that supports normal nervous system function and helps promote a state of calm.*
Nervines have been traditionally used to support:
- Normal sleep
- Stress response
- PMS symptoms
- A positive mental outlook
- Normal adrenal function
- Normal nervous system function
- A calm state of mind
Some examples of popular nervine herbs include:
- American Skullcap: A member of the mint family with a long history of traditional use for supporting stress response and normal sleep.*
- Ashwagandha Root: A cherished Ayurvedic adaptogen and Rasayana (tonic) used to support normal energy and help the body adapt to stress.*
- California Poppy: A soothing herb that promotes calm and relaxation for mind and body.*
- Chamomile: A popular herb in tea targeting relaxation and sleep, Chamomile flowers promote a deep feeling of calm.
- Lavender: This intensely fragrant nervine stokes feelings of peace, calm, and tranquility.*
- Gotu Kola: Popular in Traditional Chinese Medicine, this leafy green is often recommended during times of stress or transition.*
- Lemon Balm: This tasty herb supports nervous system function while promoting a sense of peace and calm.*
- Passionflower: Common in the southeastern United States, this creeping vine with brilliant purple flowers provides solid nervous system and sleep support.
- Kava: Popular as a beverage in Kava bars worldwide, this traditional herb is used for stress and sleep support.*
- Valerian: This herb has a rich history of traditional use for providing calming support for a natural transition to sleep and helping ease stress.
- Vervain: Also known as Blue Vervain or Verbena, this herb supports a calm response when life gets stressful or busy. It’s also been traditionally used to support sleep.
Nervines can be taken as tinctures, teas, or, in some cases, inhaled as essential oils before, during, or after your walk.
For example, some people find it calming to relax with a cup of nervine herbal tea after their walk. Or it may be nice to take your tea with you on a chilly day.
Nervines are generally safe to take in normal amounts, such as what is recommended on the supplement label.
Always check with your doctor or healthcare practitioner if you have a pre-existing condition, are on medication, have any allergies, or are nursing or pregnant.
3. Grounding, also known as Earthing
Grounding, the practice of connecting your bare skin with earth (like walking barefoot), can perfectly complement silent walks.
Research has shown grounding, also known as Earthing, works by providing natural negative electrons from the earth’s surface or natural bodies of water that help balance our body’s electrical impulses.REF#3143
For example, our brains, hearts, and nervous systems all function on electrical impulses, which can become imbalanced in the absence of negative electrons.
Grounding practices have been linked to several health benefits, including: REF#3144
- Reducing occasional anxiety
- Improving sleep
- Improving blood pressure and heart rate
- Reducing stress
- Reduction in pain and inflammation
- Increased vitality
- Supporting a positive mental outlook
Getting grounded during your silent walking is as simple as walking barefoot for some, or all, of your walk.
If you’re not big on walking barefoot in public spaces, consider kicking off your shoes once you get home for a few minutes of grounding on your own turf.
Grounding devices, such as mats, sleep pads, and footwear, are also available.
4. Nature Journaling
Often reserved for naturalists and children, nature journaling is a fantastic way to enhance the benefits of silent walking.
What is nature journaling?
This practice involves writing down and/or drawing what you observe in nature. It could be in the form of a descriptive essay, a list, a poem, or a simple or elaborate work of art.
As discussed in: 7 Benefits of Journaling for Mind & Body + How to Get Started, various types of journaling have been associated with many health benefits, including:
- Reduced blood pressure
- Better mental/emotional well-being
- Improved immune, liver, and lung function
- Better mindfulness
- Enhanced social skills and social life
Here are some tips on how to get started nature journaling:
- Select a light-weight book and pen or pencils
- You can also use a device and app, like Google Docs or Notes. However, this may negate the effects of your silent walking/mindfulness practice if it acts as a distraction
- Start by writing down the date, your location, and obvious things like the weather and temperature
- From there, observe the world around you and be curious—what do you see, smell, or feel?
- Start slowly by writing down a few details about a specific object or creature or do a simple sketch
- As a prompt, ask yourself questions like:
- How does it make you feel?
- What memories does it stir up?
- What is unusual or beautiful about it?
- What questions does it bring up?
- What senses does it stimulate, and how?
- You can also buy nature journals with pre-written prompts to make the process easier
Nature journaling can be easily incorporated into your silent walks and can bring a new dimension of mindfulness and creativity to your routine.
5. Adaptogenic Herbs
Adaptogens are a classification of herbs that help the body adapt and thrive under various physical, mental, and emotional stressors.
Research shows adaptogens work by supporting normal output and function of stress hormones via the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis,REF#3145 which acts as the body’s hormonal response system to stress.REF#3146
Various adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms have been used across cultures for centuries.
Here are some examples:
- Ashwagandha: This root has been prized for over 2000 years in Ayurveda, where it’s used as a tonic to support normal energy and help the body adapt to stress.*
- Cordyceps: A fungus used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to promote balanced energy, endurance, and stamina.*
- Eleuthero: A revered adaptogen long used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for healthy energy, stamina, and stress.*
- Maca Root: The ancient Incas revered this cruciferous vegetable for healthy energy and stamina.*
- Reishi Mushroom: Known as “the mushroom of immortality,” Reishi is frequently used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to support immunity, cardiovascular function, and stress response.*
- Rhodiola: Also known as “Siberian Ginseng,” this fragrant plant is used in Russian folklore to promote healthy stamina and energy.*
- Tulsi: Also known as “liquid yoga” or “the incomparable one,” Tulsi is a cherished herb in Ayurveda for supporting normal stress response*.
- Turmeric: Also known as “Indian Saffron,” Turmeric and its main active plant compound, Curcumin, are one of the most-studied plants and plant compounds in the world*.
- Schisandra: A Traditional Chinese herb from which the term “adaptogen” was coined. Schisandra is unique in that it possesses five flavors and supports a healthy stress response and normal immune function.*
As you may have noticed, several of these adaptogens were also on the nervine list.
That’s because many adaptogens double or trip as nervines or nootropics (herbs that support cognitive function).
Adaptogens can be taken as tinctures, teas, or powders before or after your walk.
Maca Powder, for example, can be blended into a pre- or post-walk smoothie, and a Golden Milk Latte with Turmeric is a lovely way to warm up during or after a chilly walk.
Adaptogens are generally safe to take in normal amounts, such as what is listed on the supplement bottle.
Always check with your doctor or healthcare practitioner if you have a pre-existing condition, are on medication, have any allergies, or are nursing or pregnant.
How To Incorporate Silent Walking and Other Peace-Keeping Practices Into Your Healthy Lifestyle
Silent walking can be practiced by anyone who has the ability to walk in a relatively quiet place.
Complete silence is not required, nor is it always realistic for urban dwellers. However, aim to keep your walk as distraction-free as possible.
This means you’ll walk unplugged, alone, or with a walking partner practicing silent walking.
If you need to take your phone with you, turn it off or put it on a distraction-free mode while you walk.
Then, just walk and let your brain take a much-needed break while you focus on your breathing and the sights and sounds around you.
If you want to incorporate any of the complementary practices discussed here, feel free to do so. If not, just walk and be quiet. That’s all you need to do to reap the benefits of silent walking.
For more tips on holistic self-care practices, check out 8 Self-Care Techniques That Take 10 Minutes or Less.
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