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Why Your Mind Loves Hiking

Why Your Mind Loves Hiking

by Roger Dubin

I started hiking right around the time I began to regularly practice mindfulness and meditation.  What I realized early on was that I do not need to meditate on days when I hike. The hike, when performed with the right intentions, is my mindfulness practice.  I initially thought of hiking as a great way to get exercise, but it quickly became much more than that. For me it soothes my mind while it nourishes my body, alleviating stress and anxiety.

I like to hike at least three days a week. On the days that I hike, the most amazing thing happens to me. And it always happens. As soon as I get a few miles from home in the direction of a trailhead, my mood begins to elevate and a rush of endorphins envelope me. A smile invariably comes to my face and I thank God and The Universe that I have such a wealth of natural beauty around me. And the health and energy to enjoy it.

Here are some tips: 

When selecting a hike, make sure you know where you are going, how much time you have, and how your stamina and energy are relative to the route, you are picking.  The key factors here are distance, terrain, and elevation gain.  You can evaluate this by using a hiking map and consulting various hiking sources in print and online. Most hiking resources rate hikes from Easy to Strenuous or Difficult. Build slowly by adding miles and elevation gain as you get familiar with effective movement and build endurance.

When on the trail, focus on breathing, the sights, sounds, scents, and the feeling of the ground under your feet. Pay close attention to the placement of your feet so you do not trip on tree roots or twist your ankle on rocks. And watch for loose dirt, moss, or wet leaves on hard surfaces as these can be slippery.

Your mind may wander to what you are doing next or simply accomplishing the hike. When it does this, focus on breathing and the trail. Bring yourself back into the moment and what you are experiencing through all your senses. Focus on the journey, not the destination or the next activity.

Be sure to stretch before and after as you would for other sports. On a longer hike, I will often stretch my calves and hamstrings periodically during the hike. Do not rush. Keep a pace that allows you to take everything in and walk with care and intention. This will help you avoid injury and strengthen your joints and flexibility over time.

Most of all have fun and enjoy!

In addition to being the Marketing Director for this magazine, Roger is the Trail Supervisor for over 50 miles of trails in South Eastern Harriman (managed by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference). Follow him on Instagram @MrNaturalNYC or simply contact him if you have any questions or want any tips. 

 

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