If you've ever hiked to both savor nature and get some exercise, you've probably practiced mindful hiking! Mindful hiking is gently reminding yourself to be physically and mentally present on a hike. Instead of letting that to do list creep into your thoughts, you consciously bring your awareness to how your body feels as you walk while also taking in the sensory experiences of your natural surroundings.
Mindful hiking is one way to disconnect your mind from the stress and judgment of everyday life. It's psychologically healthy to disconnect from your present environment once in a while. Your mindfulness activities help you feel refreshed, de-stressed, and rejuvenated. As one of those mindful activities, mindful hiking helps you slow down, refresh, reflect and build endurance.
There are many benefits of mindful hiking, but we'll be looking at five important ways mindful hiking can help you.
1. An escape from city life
"It's only in nature that you let go of the "fake importance enforced by the society." You forget about the problems that you create for yourself down there —in the city life, and just start living as an individual." — Lianna Arakelyan
Lianna Arakelyan, a hiking lover, shares how mindful hiking and mountain climbing help her balance between thoughts, feelings, and reality. Her mini escapes to nature help her balance her time in the city which, at times, can be can be exhausting and overwhelming.
Mindful hiking is an activity to escape the hustling and bustling city life for a while. On mindful hikes, you experience and explore different sceneries as you tune out of urban life.
Also, going on mindful hikes exposes you less to technology that compounds your burnouts. Unwinding from technology is a good way to disconnect from toxic city life, and reconnect with nature.
2. Positively impacts your mental health
"Mindful hiking is a physical and emotional experience where I absorb the calming atmosphere of the trees and plants through sight, scent, hearing, and movement. This promotes an internal state of relaxation, wellness, and sensory restoration." — Kathy Morelli
Kathy Morelli, a licensed psychotherapist, talks about how mindful hiking in the woods has significantly improved her mental health. Mindful movement has been scientifically backed to de-stresses your mind, influencing you to think clearly as you're surrounded by nature.
You're no longer in an environment that triggers toxic memories. You're now around nature's healing, clarity, serenity, warmth, peace, and inner calm. Natural space triggers positive thoughts, new beginnings, as you soak in all the moments.
3. Helps you exercise your body
"Mindful hiking isn’t about the destination and the view. It’s an activity that sometimes feels uncomfortable, it’s pushing our limits and developing willpower. In this process, we get in the flow state of being and become one with nature. This is a healing activity for your mind, soul and body." — Polina
Polina who's a travel blogger and hiker stated that mindful hiking doesn't only improve her mind, but also her soul and body. Mindful hiking enriches your body when you climb, fish, scramble, swim, paraglide, and other body-moving activities.
These hiking activities build your body up for stamina and endurance. You need stamina and endurance to get through life. Mindful hiking also makes your body fit and your mind clear.
4. Deeper connection with nature
Mindful hiking bridges the gap between your immediate environment and nature. If you live in a metropolitan city, there's a higher chance that you've lost connection with nature.
And venturing on mindful hikes brings you closer to what’s important — nature. Nature's fresh air is a big relief from the polluted air in the city. A breath of fresh air is needed to enable you to feel, absorb and think better.
Furthermore, there’s this joy you derive when you’re around green spaces like forests, woods, wetlands, etc. Green spaces have been scientifically proven to be great for our emotional, mental, and psychological well-being.
5. Helps you recharge
Nature doesn't take from you, but you take from nature to replenish yourself with new energy. While you try to escape the city life, connect with nature, or clear your mind, you’re subconsciously purging yourself of those negative energies.
To recharge, you've got to take a break from your routine life to be able to come back stronger and better prepared. All you have to do is to be mindful about your hikes.
How to Take a Mindful Hike
1. Tune into nature
Condition your mind to tune into nature as you practice mindful walking. Mindful hiking has a lot to do with mindful walking. While on a mindful walk, you're aware of every step you take towards nature while saying some words of affirmation.
Getting the best of these mindful hike activities means being psychologically attuned with your surroundings.
2. Be intentional
Hike with a purpose if you want the best out of mindful hiking. It's not enough to embark on a hike, but it's helpful to have a goal in mind. Have a mental picture of what you intend to achieve during your hike
3. Forest bathing
Forest bathing originated from Japan. It’s referred to as Shirin-Yoku in Japanese. Shirin means forest, and Yoku means bath. Shirin-Yoku has been a lifelong mindfulness activity practiced by the Japanese.
Forest bathing doesn’t involve actual bathing. It's an act of immersing yourself in nature with all your senses while you meditate. You let nature penetrate you through your eyes, nose, ears, tongue, and skin.
It’s highly recommended for your mental health. It helps you slow down, releases stress, relaxes, and reduces your blood pressure.
How do you enjoy forest bathing?
To carry out forest bathing, you located a safe space. It mustn't necessarily be in the forest or wood, but a natural spot.
You can either sit, walk or stroll around, but ensure you don’t wander far to avoid getting lost or being attacked in the wild.
Finally, practice forest bathing with a group of people. It’s advisable not to go hiking alone, and the same applies to forest bathing. Be around one or more persons, and put on your protective gear.
Taking out a few hours to go on a mindful hike can do your physical and mental health a lot of good. So, stop procrastinating, and start planning a mindful hike.
Yang, C., Conroy, D.E. (2018). Momentary negative affect is lower during mindful movement than while sitting: An experience sampling study, Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 37, pp. 109-116,https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychsport.2018.05.003.
Yates, D. (2011). The stress of city life. Nat Rev Neuroscience, 12, p. 430. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn3079