I’m pretty sure that is a direct quote from a friend of mine. She posed this question late last summer after noticing I was hiking a couple of times a week. I just laughed and said it helps keep me sane. It has been almost a year now since I was reminded how much I love being out in the woods. The truth is, I get a lot out of it. I wanted to share a few benefits I personally experience.
First and foremost, it is a form of meditation for me. Most of the time it is just Fernando, my dog, and I wandering through the woods. I’m not the most graceful person, so focusing on the task at hand is required. As my mind starts to drift off worrying about something or overthinking I bring myself back to the sounds of nature, our feet on the ground, my breath. It gives my mind a break from work, family, household duties, etc.
Also, hiking has reminded me that there is beauty in everything, even in the mundane. You just have to be open to it. Trails that I had hiked numerous times before had something new to show me with each visit. Something I hadn’t noticed before. This is something I have tried to carry forward into my every day life.
Hiking has also helped me practice letting go of expectations. I’m a list maker and planner. Hiking was no different. I would plan where to go, how far, type of terrain, etc the hike was going to be. Then I would get disappointed if the dog, weather or people didn’t cooperate. I quickly realized that was defeating the purpose. The point was to relax. With practice I have been able to let those expectations go. There is some initial planning involved, of course. Now I just do what feels right and enjoy the experience.Sometimes I hike farther than planned or sometimes I just sit down and enjoy the scenery.
Last but not least, all of that time alone in nature facilitates gaining self awareness. Taking the time to dig deep and understand why I have certain feelings has made a huge impact on my life by providing clarity and perspective. I usually start off by thinking about what has been going “good” or “bad” lately. From there I ask myself why I feel that way. If it’s “bad,” is it something in my control? If not, I need to recognize that and let go of whatever adverse feelings I’m having. If it is, what can I do? If it’s “good,” why? It is important to do this without judgement or negativity.
For whatever reason, hiking is a part of my journey. I enjoy it and it makes me happy, so I keep doing it. Simple as that.