I love to hike. At the risk of sounding like one of those health-nut hippie, save-the-earth types, I must encourage you to join me in my love of hiking! When I say hiking, I am sure most of you think of long, strenuous trips across rugged and lonely trails; and while sometimes that is true, often it’s a shorter jaunt down a simple path.
A hike, in my opinion, is any walk taken in nature with no electronic devices. A hike could be .25 miles at a local park or 4 miles at a larger campground, forest, nature preserve, etc
Here are a FEW (of many) reasons why hiking matters so much:
- Metaphors – look at this tree. Do you ever feel like you are barely hanging on? This tree gets it! I love finding trees near creeks that have exposed roots or like this, mid-forest, that remind me that all living beings have such hidden strength! When you feel like you’re going to fall apart, nature will visibly show you that you have deep roots and strength that you never thought imaginable!
- Slow down – Scenes like the one below remind me to STOP. Nature has a way of being serene and subtle…and in a world that seems to be going at break-neck speeds, a reminder to slow down is more than required for me!
- Connect – as a parent, sometimes my kids drive me crazy! Whether you have kids or not, hiking reminds me to connect and bond with those I love. I often hike alone, and still come out with more appreciation and love for those in my life! The quiet stillness of nature prompts a lot of internal reflection on relationships and where I want to put my energy. When hiking with friends/family, I am reminded what I love about them. Without all of the distractions in other life-realms, hiking lets me see their true self and appreciate why I have invited them into my life.
- Listen – while nature is generally quiet, it really isn’t! Hearing something like the waterfall in this photo reminds me to tune into what’s really happening in my life. Listening reminds me to tune into what is really happening: in my body, in my home, at work, in my mind, etc. As a culture, we don’t always take time to hear what other’s are saying to us…we look but don’t see and we hear but don’t listen.
If you are familiar with Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, I encourage you to find as many skills as you can within hiking. I will tell you that for me, it’s almost all of them!
- Within the mindfulness module: I observe, describe and participate in hiking. I do it one-mindfully, effectively and non-judgmentally. Hiking helps me get into my wise mind, when I am struggling with fiery impulses of emotion mind or analysis paralysis of rational mind.
- Within the emotion regulation module: Hiking allows me to implement self-inquire needed to explore what is happening with my cycle of emotions. It reduces my future vulnerabilities. Hiking reminds me to check the facts in situations that I am struggling with. It is a clear example of building mastery, accumulating positives (long and short term), prioritizing my physical activity/health,
- Within the distress tolerance module: I do use hiking as intense exercise and while hiking I often do paced breathing (TIPP skill), hiking is a distracting activity that generates different emotions and some strong sensations (cold stream water, muscle fatigue) which are parts of ACCEPTS. I use a lot of the IMPROVE strategies in the woods (finding prayer and meaning, being on a mini-vacation, being one in the moment, etc). Lastly, hiking is almost always a required component for me to work toward radical acceptance!
- Within the interpersonal effectiveness module: hiking is a time that I can reflect on my current conflicts and plan out DEARMAN communication strategies. It seems to put things into perspective faster than in any other setting.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there! Hiking is free and can open up personal change in a way you may have struggled to experience before!