The joy of hiking mindfully

It’s one thing to find the time to go for a hike, but it’s another to actually be able to quiet your mind and reduce stress while being out. When out, we often acquire other groups and sometimes end up chatting with them. It’s a lot of fun, but it doesn’t help to ‘get away’ from it all and have some quiet time. Here’s a rundown of the things you can do to hike more mindfully.

Be aware of your ramblings
Before you can start working on the habit of quieting the mind, you need to be aware of your so-called ‘mind ramblings.’ On your next hike, just listen to the things that are going on in your mind. What are the things that occupy your mind? Do you think about work? Your relationship? Do you worry about a friend?

Then try to spend a few minutes in complete silence – yes that includes your mind. You might notice that this is way harder than you thought at first.

Meditate on your hike
If you have never meditated before, this might be a hard one. Many people have this view that you can only meditate while sitting on the ground with your eyes closed, but good news: you can also meditate very easily on your hike, while walking. Try to focus on your breath and stand still every so often, just to enjoy the moment.

You can also focus on something in particular to use as an anchor for your meditation. A leaf, branch or piece of grass is sufficient. Come back to it every time your mind wanders.

Observe your surroundings
Stand still for a moment and look around you. If you always walk the same hiking trail, it’s possible you don’t even really see your surroundings anymore. Feel the ground under your feet, keep your breathing steady and let your eyes slowly wander around the area. This is the essence of feeling grounded while hiking – both literally and figuratively.

Then continue your walk and try to be aware of your body as you’re moving. Observe the pressure on your feet and knees and the leaves or branches you might feel on your arms. Be aware.

Pack only the necessities
If you’ve hiked before, you know that you need to pack light, but what about packing only those things you truly need? After every hike, ask yourself: have I used everything I’ve packed? Is there something I can leave out next time? Of course, it’s important to pack items you might need in case of emergency (your safety should never be at stake) but many of us keep bulky items in our bag that we’ll never use, just for the sake of it. When you carry less items, you won’t be as worried about losing your belongings and your backpack will hopefully be lighter.

Being in nature definitely sets the stage for a mindful moment, but it doesn’t guarantee it. Quieting our thoughts and being in the moment takes awareness and practice. The reward is definitely worth it – you’ll enjoy your hikes even more!


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