The 52 Hike Challenge is a global movement empowering individuals to take a personal journey. Participants discover the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional benefits gained through hiking once a week for an entire year. Every year, tens of thousands of people from around the world take the challenge to change their lives in a positive way, one step at a time.
I’m Karla, founder of the 52 Hike Challenge. And in 2012, my world was turned upside down when I was faced with divorce. My life as I knew it was over. Fast forward through a very painful year of introspection and work, and I met a man who inspired me to get outdoors and hike. In 2014, I set a New Years resolution to hike once a week for a year. Little did I know how impactful that goal would be in my life, and that the 52 Hike Challenge would touch the lives of tens of thousands of individuals.
While on the journey, I was able to heal a lot of emotional pain on the trails. I tapped into my inner negative dialogue and was able to end ruminating thoughts, one step at a time. I was more present with myself, my emotions, and I found my inner power. This is the key – on every single hike you are required to pay attention and be in the moment to navigate the terrain, which distracts you from unhealthy thoughts. Plus, the grandeur of nature makes you realize how small our problems really are. With each hike I got stronger, physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally!
According to mindful.org, “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” This is the beauty of hiking; you have to be present and in the moment or you may trip and fall. When I get outdoors, I become one with nature. I am immersed in her sounds and aware of each step I take. My mind stops racing, I am surrounded by beauty, which makes me grateful, and then the most beautiful insights come to me. By going outdoors on a weekly basis, or 52 times a year, I am able to stay mindful and deal with life’s stresses in a healthy way.
We all deserve to have more peace in our lives, and I truly believe nature and hiking can bring that to us.
Here are my favourite ways to practice mindfulness on the trails:
- Start by committing to doing something for yourself, like the #52HikeChallenge. Be intentional about practicing mindfulness on your hikes.
- Be environmentally conscious. Pick up trash or volunteer with your local park to build and maintain trails. Think about the impact of your daily habits and how they affect our beautiful earth.
- Meditate in nature. Go outdoors and find a good place to sit. It could be under a tree, a rock, or on the dirt. Set a timer so you know when your time is up. I recommend starting with 5 minutes and increase time spent as you get comfortable with the practice. Close your eyes. Focus on breathing in and out. Allow thoughts to rise, however, do not judge or label them. Let them go, and return your consciousness to your breath.
- Take a forest walking meditation or practice forest bathing (check out the practice called Shinrin Yoku). Silently walk amongst trees, breathe in and out, allowing thoughts to come and go. Focus on each step you take, listen to the leaves crackling beneath your feet, touch leaves and trees.
- Take a break when hiking and work on mantras or affirmations. It is scientifically proven that you can rewire negative subconscious patterns this way. Some of my favourite affirmations include: “I can do this,” “I will reach my summit one step at a time,” or “You got this!”
- Practice gratitude! Think of all the reasons why you are grateful: your feet, your will, the views, fresh air, etc.
- Educate yourself. Pack your Trekz Air and listen to an inspiring podcast. I like Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations. Also, if you do decide to listen to music, headphones are critical. Being mindful includes being thoughtful and not blaring music loudly on the trails. People usually go on the trails to get away from the noise.
- Download an app for meditation. I use Insight Timer but you can also check out Calm and Headspace. Contemplate the views silently. Basically, be in the stillness and silence of mother nature.
So, next time you’re feeling stressed or just need to get back in touch with yourself, pack your backpack and head for the trails. Your mind, body and soul will thank you for it. Share your experiences with us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!