In a TikTok video that has now amassed nearly half a million views, the influencer Mady Maio describes taking a walk. But not just any walk: a silent one.
For her, the 30-minute stroll was revelatory. She was resistant at first. “My anxiety could never,” she said in the video. Ms. Maio described the first two minutes as mental “mayhem” that eventually gave way to a “flow state.”
Her brain fog lifted. Ideas started popping into her head because she was “giving them space to enter.”
The silent walk does not involve multitasking. There is no agenda other than to set one foot in front of the other and take note of the world around you.
Walking in silence is an ancient tradition rooted in mindfulness, a form of meditation that helps people focus on the physical sensations, thoughts and emotions of the present moment, without any judgment.
The fact that the silent walk is nothing new has attracted a chorus of critics; “Gen Z thinks it just invented walking,” they say.
To that, Arielle Lorre, 38, a content creator in Los Angeles, had to laugh. “Fifteen or 20 years ago, this would not have even been a conversation,” said Ms. Lorre, who has often discussed the benefits of silent walks, most recently on her podcast and on TikTok.
But silent walking feels relevant right now because many of us have become tethered to our devices, she added. The question then becomes: “How do we counteract that?” Ms. Lorre said.
Walking is a well-established balm for the mind and body. Research has shown that walking for as little as 10 extra minutes a day may lead to a longer life.
And a 2020 study in The Journal of Environmental Psychology found that a 30-minute walk in an urban park reduced the amount of time that people dwelled on negative thoughts. Walking has also been shown to improve creativity and help fend off depression.
Ms. Lorre, who walks in silence for at least 45 minutes roughly four times a week, said that since she started this practice about a year ago, she now sleeps better, feels calmer and has more consistent energy throughout the day.
But for some people, the idea of a silent walk might seem torturous. One 2014 study found that, if left with no other option, people would shock themselves rather than sit alone with their thoughts.
“Most people seem to prefer to be doing something rather than nothing, even if that something is negative,” the study authors wrote.