Take a Mindful Hike

Physical activity. Beautiful scenery. Who doesn’t like the occasional hike in the great outdoors? And when you add a little extra awareness to the experience, your outing can benefit both your body and your mind.

Illustrations by Min Ahwon

Hiking with friends while enjoying great conversation and laughter is one of my favorite activities. But unless we make a conscious effort to stop every now and again and really pay attention to where we are and what we are doing, we can miss a tremendous amount. Stopping and consciously engaging our senses when out hiking not only calms and grounds us—relaxing both mind and body—but it also deepens our connection to the natural world. Excuse the cliché, but mindful hiking is really about remembering to stop and smell the roses (or the eucalyptus, as the case may be).

I’ve always loved being in nature. It’s when I feel an almost instantaneous sense of calm and peace, coupled with an intense awareness of being alive. It’s also where I feel happiest and most at ease. One of my most memorable childhood experiences was hiking The Overland Track, a six-day hike from Cradle Mountain to Lake St. Clair in Tasmania with my parents when I was 12. I loved being far away from civilization, carrying a large pack on my back. I was captivated by the breathtaking beauty of the ever-changing landscape—scrambling to the top of Cradle Mountain or sitting by the campfire at night under tall, majestic gum trees. It was a great adventure, one that cemented a life-long love of hiking and the outdoors.

Later, during my twenties, I spent far less time in nature than I would have liked. I didn’t know many people who were interested in hiking and I was too shy to join a hiking group. Around then, I started meditating as a way of relieving stress and anxiety. I’ve since realized that, for me, meditation and being in nature are the two things that, without fail, calm my mind and relax my body.

Spending time in nature has healing and restorative power. Being outdoors increases well-being, helps alleviate stress and anxiety, promotes creativity, assists with recovery from mental fatigue, helps restore attention, boosts the brain’s ability