…you may be very well aware of the mind-body-spirit benefits one receives from the simple act of taking a walk. You may have also experienced the mood-elevating, stress-reducing, attitude-shifting benefits of practicing gratitude. Combining these two powerful practices,…takes you down a very healthy road, one “thankful step” at a time.

Photo by Rodgers Otieno

Albert Einstein considered his daily walks to be “sacred.” Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, said that walking is the best medicine. I largely agree with this statement, but I feel it rings even truer when we bolster our walking with added intention and mindful execution.

I am a walker. You may be, too. And you may be very well aware of the mind-body-spirit benefits one receives from the simple act of taking a walk. You may have also experienced the mood-elevating, stress-reducing, attitude-shifting benefits of practicing gratitude. Combining these two powerful practices, and counting your blessings via a “Gratitude Walk,” takes you down a very healthy road, one “thankful step” at a time.

Note: A Gratitude Walk can be performed by those using a wheelchair or other mobility device.

The Benefits of a Gratitude Walk

  • Elevates your mood, increases happiness, and puts a smile on your face.
  • Recenters and focuses you.
  • Calms you.
  • Helps you break free of toxic thoughts and emotions.
  • Rewires your brain to look at things differently.
  • Cultivates an appreciation for what may not have been appreciated before.
  • Raises self-esteem and enhances empathy.
  • Improves sleep.
  • Opens you to inspiration.
  • Increases blood circulation.
  • When performing this walk with others, it allows you—and perhaps your walking group or partner—to be heard, received, and appreciated.

Be creative with your thankfulness. Reach deeply into yourself – and allow yourself to be surprised.

Photo by Chastagner Thierry

How to Do It

You may choose to do this walk alone or with others. Joining forces to share what we are thankful for is very powerful.

Choose a time when you won’t have to rush, and a place where you can perhaps gather a sense of peace from the surroundings. Overall, it is great if you can dedicate 20 or more minutes to walking in gratitude; this will further ensure the release of happiness hormones and uplifting neurotransmitters.

This entire walk is about engaging expressions of gratitude, many from within you, and others from the outside world. Some you will have to search for, like the elusive name of a childhood friend; some will spill right out of you; some, like a beautiful sunset, will appear before your eyes; and some, as when you realize a hurt from the past has made you stronger in the present, may take a little massaging before they land fully as something you are thankful for.

With that said, there is no getting this walk “wrong.” The very intent of walking in gratitude will benefit you.

There are two main ways to perform this walk. The first is engaging the walk at a pace that is continually moving, and tying your expressions of gratitude into your steps. The second is a slower, stop-and-go, more contemplative practice; for this practice, you may wish to bring a pen and paper to jot down expressions of gratitude as you walk. 

I recommend the former for those who wish to establish a rhythm and pace fed by their gratitude, and I recommend the latter for those who seek a more reflective practice.

Whichever style of Gratitude Walk you choose to go on, you can express your gratitude in any of these ways: “I am thankful for …” “I have gratitude for …” “I am grateful for …” You choose what feels best for your walk.

Prior to beginning your Gratitude Walk, I encourage you to set an intention. For example, “With this walk, I will discover gratitude within and around me in ways that elevate my understanding of and appreciation for all life.”

Once you have decided which version of the walk you will perform on this day, and you’ve set your intention, turn off your cellphone, switch it to airplane mode, or leave it behind.

Feel your feet rooted to the ground and connect to your breathing by executing a few full inhales and exhales, in through the nose and out through the mouth.

Before you begin to walk, find gratitude in your ability to walk. Just hold that thought. This is a powerful starting point.

As you walk, remain connected to the ground; feel your steps as you keep your spine long and your head high, walking with your body, mind, and heart open and thankful, as you allow yourself to embody gratitude to whatever degree you can, realizing that it may feel strange, foreign, and even scary to you in the beginning.

If you are having trouble getting your gratitude flowing, you can begin your steps by saying aloud or to yourself whatever you are thankful for about your physical body: “I am thankful for my eyes that allow me to see,” “I am thankful for my ears that allow me to hear,” “I am thankful for my feet,” etc. Or you may begin with something you see: “I am thankful for my car,” “I am thankful for my home,” “I am thankful for the sun,” etc.

The entire time you walk, you will be coming up with things that you are thankful for.

You are going to saturate every cell in your body with gratitude.

If you are going on the faster gratitude walk, I encourage you to align your statements of gratitude with the rhythm of your steps; that is, with every step you take, issue a part of your statement of thanks: “I… am … thankful … for … the trees … and … the earth ….”

If the moment occurs when your internal gratitude well begins to run dry, turn your focus outside and see what you can be thankful for or appreciate right in front of you – the path or walkway you’re on, the clouds in the sky, the birds in the trees, etc.

Over the course of your walk, you may find yourself repeating things you have gratitude for. This is fine. It can only deepen the experience.

Also, find gratitude for things you never thought you would feel grateful for, like past challenges. For example: the employer who fired you, who actually did you a favor because you disliked the job and found a better-suited one; or the breakup or relationship that was tough, but taught you so much.

When something negative enters your thought-stream, perhaps even doubt about expressing gratitude, say, “I am thankful for my ability to spot negative thoughts. With gratitude for what it has taught me, I now release this thought.” And give it a strong exhale as well.

Be creative with your thankfulness. Reach deeply into yourself – and allow yourself to be surprised.

As you conclude your walk, recognize any lightness that has entered you, along with any mental, physical, or emotional shifts. Allow gratitude to live in you for the rest of the day and beyond.


An adapted excerpt from Walking with Glenn Berkenkamp: 35 Wellness Walks to Expand Awareness, Increase Vitality, and Reduce Stress.


Glenn Berkenkamp, former bodybuilder and fitness expert, is a storyteller, transformational speaker, walk leader, and creator of the Writing Into The Now workshop. He is the author of Mastery: Living the Highest YouWould My Heart Think This Thought? and Walking with Glenn Berkenkamp: 35 Wellness Walks to Expand Awareness, Increase Vitality, and Reduce Stress. He resides in Northern California. Learn more at LivingTheHighestYou.com.


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