Portland Therapy Blog

Portland Therapy Blog

Local experts share the latest information and resources on all things mental health.

Let’s go for a Mindful hike

Posted: May 01, 2017 by [email protected]

Spring is here and it's time for Pacific Northwesterners to come out of hibernation. The tulips are blooming and cherry blossoms aromatic. Now is a great time to head for a trail in Forest Park, the Columbia Gorge, or any of the endless options for hiking in Oregon and Washington. We all know that hiking can improve our physical health, by building leg and core strength, burning calories, lowering risk of heart disease, improving blood pressure, and losing weight. More and more research is coming out supporting the psychological benefits as well. According to a Stanford study, even just walking in a natural setting for as little as 90-minutes can start to change your brain for the better by reducing depression and ruminating thoughts.

Here are a few tips for being mindful on your next hike to reap even more of the positive effects:

1. Pause before you start. Sometimes it may take a while to get to your hiking destination. Packing up the car, fighting through traffic, listening to music, talking to friends, finding where you are going, and so on. By the time you get to the trail, you may just hurry right into the hike carrying all the hustle and bustle with you. Next time, before you start, try taking a pause. Spend a moment slowing down, breathing deeply. Set your intention to leave the city temporarily behind, and to be in the moment.

2. Tune out your phone. These days most people use their phones for camera purposes, leading to a constant temptation of capturing the instagram worthy shot. Of course this can be enjoyable, yet the risk is in experiencing your hike through how it will appear on social media and not by how it is for you. With cell phone accessibility constantly expanding, on many hikes you may even have service. Each time the phone comes out, the presence of the moment wanes. Try keeping your phone a little harder to get to, like in your back backpack, in order to bring more intention to when you use it. Or even better, I challenge you to not bring it out the entire time and see what happens. Take a snapshot with your mind.

3. Tune into your senses. Concentrate on each step. Feel your feet under you, the texture of the ground you walk on. Touch a leaf a rock or some dirt. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Take a short break from walking. Close your eyes, what can you smell? Hear? Open your eyes and take a 360 degree look. See the clouds drifting overhead, look down at the shapes, patterns, and colors. Be curious. Take a break to savor your water. Taste your snack, savoring each bite with intention. Plus, food always tastes better when hiking!

4. Be silent. Sometimes we end up talking the whole hike. Of course this can be fun, but try having an extended window of silence. Being with another person while quiet can be powerful and how often does it happen?

Now go, get outside and enjoy. If you ever want to go on a mindful hike together, find me at www.groundpdx.com.

Tags: mood and feelings