People have different reasons why they go hiking in the mountains. Others would love to find peace, while some simply want to enjoy the physical challenge or the adrenaline rush the outdoors offers. Meeting new friends is also one of the best things that can happen during hiking trips. And here’s my take, the following are 10 reasons why I enjoy and endure long walks in nature.
1. To clear my mind. Taking long walks is my kind of meditation—my alternative to yoga. But isn’t meditation supposed to be sitting in lotus position, closing your eyes and undergo an awareness process to activate your chakras? You probably haven’t heard of ‘walking meditation’. Because one of the goals of meditation is to be fully present in the moment — walking in natural environments actually allow us to pay attention to the present moment.
While on hiking trails, I need to be mentally present and got to be fully aware of my surrounding environment. For example, scanning my mental notes for clues on the right direction to prevent from getting lost. Or actively looking down the ground I’m stepping on to make sure I don’t lose footing in rugged and steep paths. Also by keeping the right pace and not going too slow to be able to arrive on time as expected. For a short period of time, I’m able to escape from the day-to-day and only have to think about reaching the peak or how am I able to make it with an almost empty water bottle. That being said, hiking is also a mindfulness exercise.
2. To take a breath of fresh air. The city’s polluted air is what I breathe every day. Having a work location where you run across people taking smoke-breaks a lot of times is also something inevitable. I do not smoke cigarettes but I am a heavy passive smoker. Sad fact is that secondhand smokers’ health is more affected compared to active smokers. Going outdoors allows me to walk away from pollution and to give my lungs a break.
3. To filter the noise. My work is client facing so I’m always talking or chatting to someone and rarely do I hear silence in an open-space office (there’s always this keyboard noise and people talking out loud). So I always look forward to weekend hikes —a chance to listen to the wind, to the river currents, to the birds chirping, to the stories and laughter of my friends. Sometimes listening to the wind makes more sense to me.
4. To adopt the pace of nature. I’m always in a hurry to work or to school and I want to slow down for a while. Except in the case of being stuck in slow traffic—I had never been more patient before with the city’s horrible traffic and inefficient transportation system. Walking in nature allows me to slow down and enjoy the trail, to take notice of the surroundings, to take beautiful pictures, or to smell wildflowers.
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
5. To enjoy a wider space. Sitting on a cubicle desk during my 8-hour shift on weekdays is a pain in the butt. During my one-hour lunch break at work, I took the opportunity to have a 15-min walk to another building or block just to get an open space and to relax. Going outdoors provides me more space to walk, breathe and think.
6. To have a digital detox. As part of my work, I’m always navigating the cyberspace. Even after work, I oftentimes find myself engaging in social media that I need a break from it. Deactivating my Facebook account gives me a breather from today’s opinionated social media world and disconnecting from the internet allows me not to care about emails tagged as high priority even though they don’t really deserve urgent attention. And a lot more distracting things the internet brings such as falling into articles with fancy buzzwords or write-ups infused with subtle marketing, and too much lurking on Reddit.
But of course, after a digital detox I’m back to my normal programming which is helping businesses thrive using digital marketing and cloud technologies. This is just one of the ways I prevent burnout from working too long in front of a computer and to allow some balance with the physical world.
Anyhow, I set an exemption when it comes to ‘digital’ detox. I still cannot avoid taking out my ‘digital’ camera to take photos of anything that interest me during our hike, at least it has no WiFi feature. I love taking photos; it speaks a thousand words.
7. To stay fit. Hiking helps burn more calories. During one of my day-hikes, I used a fitness tracker app and it showed I burned 1,376 kcal. Not bad. That is about 2 servings of venti size caramel frappe with whipped cream.
There are interesting studies that shows nature can do wonders to a person’s physical and mental state. This is called nature therapy. Being in green spaces can positively impact our overall well-being and happiness.
If you can’t hike long distances and if you’re willing, how about going to a park and hug a tree. This is said to increase positive emotions. I sometimes do this and it makes me feel better as if all the negative thoughts or energies are being absorbed and eventually converted into positive ones.
Update: A recent published research found out that trees have crown shyness and with this discovery, we might want to rethink about hugging trees because just like humans — they need space.
Moreover, to endure long walks I keep myself fit by eating ‘real’ foods and by getting enough sleep and exercise.
8. To break from the routine. Once in a while, I take time to break from my daily routine by visiting new places. This way I can return to my day-to-day refreshed and more focused.
9. To learn more about myself and others. I’ve learned a great deal about myself like I was too materialistic. During our hikes, I met locals from remote places who never owned any watch or pretty clothes, but despite that, they have a more pleasant disposition. They don’t own a lot of things and yet they have a more positive outlook.
One day, it dawned on me that I’m simply riding the waves of a consumerist society. Now I dislike the thought of buying too many pretty things that will not be used often. When purchasing something new, I will now consider the options and choose based on certain values…
- Is this useful?
- Can this be reusable or recyclable?
- Will this be beneficial to my health?
- Is this less harmful to the environment?
- Am I being frugal or practical?
- Will this help me accomplish certain tasks or will this improve something I need?
- Is this purchase have anything meaningful?
10. To appreciate life. Most importantly, being privileged to enjoy the greater outdoors and the simple pleasures in life is what I’m truly grateful for. It made me look forward to upcoming adventures and misadventures because it leads to surprising detours.
Okay, that was long…I’m looking forward to the next hiking adventure trip, don’t you too?