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Treadmill Meditation: Calm Your Mind and Work Off Anxiety

Let the steady whir of the treadmill calm the chaotic whirring of your mind.

While we are all trying to get in the groove of our new normal, many of us are still wrestling with significant anxiety. It may be borne out of the pandemic’s effects on our daily lives and the health of those we care for or it may be something that shadows our lives on a daily basis.

For those who are experiencing unprecedented bouts of anxiety or depression due to the uncertainty and isolation you’re now facing, please know that anxiety or depression can be normal reactions to these new abnormal situations.

However, it’s important to find ways to reshape your responses as this “abnormal situation" has become our “new normal.” There are a variety of treatments and interventions for minimizing anxiety and depression, from medication to meditation. Trying to master your mood through healthy habits and mindfulness is an excellent starting point for most of us.

Treadmill Meditation

While the seasons are turning, many of us will still be encouraged or required to stay put in our own homes or yards. While walking meditation is typically a practice that takes place in the open air, it can definitely be modified to be practiced inside on a treadmill.

For many people, treadmill walking can be a painfully boring way to get in their steps. You might listen to podcasts, music, watch television, or find some other “add-in” to make the experience bearable. But meditation is all about shutting out the external world and focusing inward — whether you focus on your breath, a mantra, or simple physical awareness of your body, the goal is to harness your attention and clear your mind of distracting thoughts.

The treadmill is a perfect place to practice awareness and the clearing of your mind of the unhelpful, and sometimes harmful, automatic thoughts that drain your mental energy and raise your negative emotional states (such as anxiety or depression).

Engaging in treadmill meditation seems deceptively simple, as any meditative practice tends to appear. The trick to successful meditation is in recognizing it is a practice and that mastery takes time.

  1. Start out by setting your treadmill to the speed that allows you to walk at the pace you would normally walk on any brisk walk outside. Walking meditation should not leave you out-of-breath or feeling winded.
  2. As you find yourself getting into an easy rhythm, begin to bring your attention to your breath. Don’t force yourself to breathe “a certain way.” Just follow the natural rhythm of your breath.
  3. Tune out the external world by focusing on the sound of the treadmill. Begin to match your breathing to your steps and to the pace of the treadmill's whirring.
  4. Tune out the external world by focusing on the movement of your body as you fall into sync with the rhythm of the treadmill.
  5. When unwanted and distracting thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge their arrival, and then let them fall to the side. Focus only on your practice and the sounds of the treadmill.
  6. If you feel that your mind is going into overdrive or cascading into negative thoughts, acknowledge this state and let it go. Return your attention to the whir of the treadmill and the movement of your body.

By re-booting your brain through mindful meditation, you’ll be better set to handle the actual challenges or stressors you may be required to face. Computers do well with a re-boot and so do our brains. Attending to the body, too, through healthy aerobic exercise, also gives us extra defenses against the stressors of everyday life.

More Ways to Calm Your Mind While Healing Your Body

Here are a few additional tips to help you restore the proper foundation for bolstering your emotional well-being:

  • To maintain your emotional well-being, make sure that you’re prioritizing your physical well-being. Set up routines that pretty much mimic the way you spent your days before the lockdown was put in place — keeping to your normal routine gives you a sense of stability and that’s what all of us crave right now.
  • Eat healthily, keep hydrated, and make time for exercise! These are key to optimal physical health — regardless of whether you’re a globetrotter or a stay-at-home parent or retiree.
  • Research shows that eating veggies, fruit, and getting regular exercise all play a significant role in preventing and minimizing depression.
  • Exercise can particularly help with anxiety — it gives you a place where you can work off nervous energy and feel like you’re actually “doing” something to fight against the unknown and basically invisible threat.
  • Mindfulness activities are really helpful in dealing with anxiety, too. It’s worth trying out basic meditation if you’ve never tried it before — or giving it another go if you tried and felt it just wasn’t in your wheelhouse. Times change and people change. What didn’t work yesterday might work today!
More from Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.
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More from Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.
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