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Tips for Practicing Mindfulness While Hiking

Have a mind that won't stop racing? Try mindfulness while hiking.

By: Jess Fischer + Save to a List

A few months ago while in a yoga class my teacher challenged us to "be in the now." She caught me off guard because of course my mind was wandering and for the remainder of the class it was hard for me to keep my mind from wandering. She went on to challenge us to try and practice mindfulness every day, in every moment. This has been particularly challenging for me because I love to let my mind wander but I've been trying to reel the ole' girl back in and live more in the moment whenever I can.

Usually when I hike I let my mind wander near and far. I dwell over hypothetical conversations, think about future trips, what I want for dinner that night, etc. In the last month I've been trying to bring my mind back to hiking and make it a little more mindful. Listen to my breathing, my feet connecting with the earth, the sounds around, me and the smells. I've always done this to some extent but never with intent or purpose and it's changed my hikes (and runs) for the better. Now, I couldn't hike like this all the time because a lot of time when I hike I do so to let my mind let lose and wander over whatever it wants, but I try to incorporate this into my hikes for 15-20 minutes at the very least. 

So, here are my tips for practicing mindfulness while hiking:

1. Set an Intention Before You Start

Go into your hike with the intent to have a mindful hike. Before you start your hike, stop at the beginning of the trail and set intentions with yourself to keep as clear as a mind as you can and to be in the present moment as much as you can. Take a few breaths and bring your mind to the present. If something in particular has been on your mind, let it go for the time being.

2. Focus On Your Breath

If your mind really wanders and you're having problems staying in the present focus on your breath. Intentionally breath in and out and find a rhythm with your steps. This usually happens naturally for most hikers but bring your awareness back to your breath and really focus on it.

3. Pause Throughout Your Hike To Reset

If you become aware of your mind wandering just stop and take a minute to reset. Let your arms hang loosely by your side and tune in to your senses and walk through each one. What do you see, hear, smell, feel? Be mindful of everything around you and bring yourself back into the moment.

4. Inhale the Good, Exhale the Crap

If silencing your mind is proving difficult try inhaling and exhaling with words. For example, sometimes if I can't get my mind to stop racing from the day and focusing on my breath isn't working I'll inhale while literally mumbling in my head "positivity" and thinking of everything good that has happened to me and exhale the negative by quite literally exhaling and thinking "allll the negative."

Mindful hiking isn't easy for me, and it may not be for some of you. I find that it's easiest for me to practice on trails that I've already hiked multiple times. For me, those are the trails where my mind wanders the most because it isn't new or exciting terrain and views.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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