Walking can be a beautiful way to self-reflect — here are 21 questions to get you started

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Going on a walk means you’re saying “yes” to benefits for your body that include improving your mood, boosting your immune system and increasing energy levels. Not only that, but walking can be great for your emotional wellbeing.

Of course, there’s a ton of audio inspiration you can take with you on a walk. But if you don’t want to listen to music, podcasts or audiobooks, you can still use your walking time as a way to ponder your life. Self-reflecting while you walk isn’t a stressful way of multi-tasking, though — it’s an evidence-based way to improve your mental health.

In fact, a recent study suggests that engaging in self-reflection while you’re walking may have some of the same benefits as professional counseling. For the study, which was published in 2021, researchers interviewed middle-aged (and older) adults who were long-distance walkers. What they found was that many walkers reported that their walking helped them overcome strain in their lives and gave them a greater sense of calmness. The researchers concluded that walking may be of therapeutic value for people who are dealing with personal struggle.

Even if you don’t have obvious life obstacles to overcome, you may want to use your walks as a way of thinking about how to live your best life. These 21 prompts are designed for you to ponder while walking to bring yourself into a happier or more positive mood. 

Let’s be honest: When your time is constantly filled with work, parental duties, errands, and chores, everyday life sometimes leaves little time for self-reflection. But self-reflection is necessary to develop skills, reassess your habits and align daily routines to your goals. I recommend trying these thought-provoking prompts to engage in self-reflectiveness and boost your overall mood for a happier, healthier you!  

Here are 21 questions to get you started on your self-reflective walking journey.

What is something you’re looking forward to next year?  

2023 is right around the corner and it’s not too early to start visualizing the ways you want to enjoy it. Think about what you’ve already planned — or want to plan out. Consider a vacation, visiting a friend that lives long-distance, a tournament, or whatever makes you look forward to the upcoming year.  

What do you love most about where you live?  

This can be your walking route, the gym you go to, your social circle, or your work environment. Maybe it’s someplace only you know about or the view from a particular window. Etch the details of that place into your mind so that you can always remember a reason why you chose to call where you live home.

What are five things you’re grateful for? 

You can learn to have an “attitude of gratitude!” Thinking about the things in your life you are already grateful for and acknowledging the people in your life you’re thankful for can shift your mindset in a positive direction.  

Notice the beauty around you.Getty Images

What is something you’ve improved on recently? 

Considering the ways that you have already made positive improvements in your life can be just the reward you need to encourage more of the same! Who doesn’t love a pat on the back, even it’s from yourself? Take a moment to think about what you’ve done right, lately.

For example, your squatting form improved compared to when you first began squatting. Another example could be improvements cardio endurance. You’re walking further or faster than when you first started walking.  

What are your five favorite things about yourself? 

Your relationship with yourself significantly contributes to your mental health and self-confidence. Therefore, acknowledging what you love about you can help you build a healthier relationship with yourself.  Think about five things you love about who you are.

What are three habits you want to build? 

Habits are crucial to achieving progress and success toward your goals. Think through three habits you’d like to build into your life and imagine that these habits are already firmly rooted. How do you feel? Visualizing the benefits of the habits you’re trying to build will help you remember why you’re trying.

What are you most happy about in your life currently? 

Assess what you are most happy about in your life. It can relate to work, fitness, relationships, health, or even an improvement in the overall outlook in life. Don’t forget to congratulate yourself on all the steps you took to make it happen!

Older woman successfully finishing a marathon.
Imagine yourself reaching your goals!Getty Images

What are three fitness goals you want to reach?   

To be successful and challenge yourself, you first need to have goals to strive towards. Think about your goals and break them down into small steps — really ponder the mini-goals you need to work towards larger goals. Every journey starts with a single step, and knowing which steps to take can ensure that you keep moving in the right direction. An example of this would be setting the goal of increasing your overall energy expenditure and committing to walking three times a week to reach that goal.

What are three long-term goals you have? What are you doing to reach them?  

Knowing your long-term goals is vital in setting up the shorter-term steppingstones you’ll need to reach these goals. Without acknowledging or assessing your long-term goals and where you’re ultimately headed can leave you spinning your wheels. Plus, thinking about the big picture can make it easier to figure out what your short-term goals should be.

What are three short-term goals you have? What are you doing to reach them? 

As mentioned, short-term goals are great stepping stones to long-term goals and, eventually, success. Not all your goals have to be fitness related! Maybe you need to get your holiday shopping done and the first step is making a list of who you want to give gifts to.

What is your favorite aspect of being active?  

Being active is a lifestyle, not a way to torture yourself. Find one aspect — or more — of being active that you enjoy. Be honest! Maybe you don’t actually love doing mountain climbers, but you love how they make you look or feel. Being crystal clear with yourself about what you love about fitness will remind you that it’s more than a chore.  

What motivated you today?  

Analyze what motivated you today to be active to go on your walk. What sequence of thoughts and actions got you dressed and out the door? When you lack motivation in the future, you can draw on what inspired you today! 

How have you challenged yourself recently to reach your goals?  

Was there a time that was particularly hard to go on your walk recently? How did you challenge yourself to get moving? Analyze this time so that the next time you’re faced with a challenge you can remind yourself that you are more than capable of doing hard things!

What is the best advice you’d give your younger self? 

The You you are today has a lot of wisdom that the younger You didn’t. Assessing how far you’ve come can improve your relationship with your inner self.

Mother and son having conversation on sofa at home
An intimate conversation can change how we think.Getty Images

What is the best advice you’d give to someone younger than you? 

You may find yourself in a position to help someone who doesn’t have the experience you have. Knowing how you gained your own wisdom and experience will make you better able to share it.   

When you retire, do you want to move? If so, where? 

Many people look forward to retiring and enjoying life more. If you moved somewhere else, could you take up new activities, meet new people and learn new hobbies? Don’t worry — you don’t have to actually move if you don’t want to! Just considering what your life might be like someplace new may help you expand your thinking about how you want to spend your time where you are right now.

What do you believe dreams are? An alternate reality? Is our subconscious telling us something? 

You can use this kind of deep reflection to assess your perspective on life. Creatively pondering your dreams may help you realize that there are things you want to address subconsciously — or it could give you a great idea for a story you want to write! You never know where your dreams will take you but take a moment to wonder where they come from and how — or whether — you want to think about them.

If a biography was written about you, what would it say? 

This thought experiment can be an excellent tool to analyze and assess the milestones in your life so far and what you hope to achieve in the future. Try to be generous about your own achievements — even if they seem small to you.

What do you believe are the ingredients of a happy life?  

Imagine that this thing we call life is a giant recipe. If you wanted to bake the happiest life possible, what ingredients would you include? Now that you’ve answered this question, assess whether you are applying these ingredients to your life. Maybe you’re including too much work and not enough play — or the other way around!

What item do you think the world could do better without? 

Do you ever find yourself thinking that the world would be a better place without something in it? Maybe that thing is plastic grocery bags or frowny face emojis — you’re in charge here! If you truly believe this item affects the world negatively, take this item out of your life. It may improve your outlook on life to know that you are making the changes you want to see in the world.  

Senior Asian Man watching bird watching with binoculars.
Have you ever tried birdwatching?Getty Images

When was the last time you tried something new? 

Trying new things can make life exciting! It can open doors to new hobbies and relationships while adding a thrilling note to your routine. Consider the last new thing you tried and focus in on the details of how it felt. You may be more likely to try new things in the future if you stay attuned to how experimentation makes you feel.

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