Life lessons from hiking | The Happy + Healthy Life

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Being out in nature improves both your physical and mental well-being. Taking a hike not only can get your heart rate up, but it can also bring clarity to a problem you have been facing. 

Being out in nature can spark our imaginations and rejuvenate our souls. 

My family loves to hike and be outside. As we were hiking, I realized there are many life lessons can be found on a hike through the woods.

1. Open your eyes. Look around and notice the beauty that surrounds you. Notice the sun shining through the trees. Notice the water sparkling. Notice the birds flying overhead. As I’m sure you have heard before, life is not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Look around and appreciate the beauty around you. There’s always an awe-inspiring view for you to take in. 

2. Stop and smell the flowers. The fragrant aromas from certain flowers are actually proven to relax you and improve your mood. Lavender and chamomile are both commonly known to reduce stress. The sense of smell often can trigger emotion and memory, too. One of my favorite scents is honeysuckle. Whenever the aroma of honeysuckle fills my nostrils, it takes me back to my 11-year old self sitting in our silver Toyota Celica with the windows manually rolled down on the way to the pool. I’m in the passenger’s seat at a stop sign and when I look out the window there is a fence made of the sweet-smelling bush. This happy childhood memory puts a smile on my face every time. When you stop and smell the flowers, you become completely alive in the moment. When we take time to be fully present in the moment, we are able to experience more gratitude. 

3. It’s not a race. There are no medals or trophies for who gets to the end of the trail first. Stop along the way and notice the different green hues of trees and be alert to the wildlife’s homes you are walking through. Let your senses be alert. Listen to the bees buzzing by your head, trees rustling in the breeze, water running down the stream, and the crunch of rocks under your feet. As in life, don’t rush through your day. Be still enough to listen to your compass and be present with the people around you. Truly listen and be curious about what others are sharing instead of thinking about your to-do list. Also, take the time to go on a walk, read a book, or just relax. Slow down and savor ordinary moments. 

4. Be prepared. When headed out for a hike, be sure to have a backpack stashed with water, a snack, Band-aids and bug repellent. Think ahead about what you may need as you’re exploring. When hiking through a wooded area there will often be pests along the way. Just as in life, be prepared to face obstacles to overcome them. Once you get to your destination, it will be well worth it. When my family and I were hiking through Yellowstone, we trekked through a forest that was absolutely beautiful. It was lush, green and full of the worst mosquitoes I’ve ever seen. Since we were prepared, we put on our insect repellent and kept going. We were so happy we pressed on because at the end of the trail there was a cascading waterfall where we could splash and play. 

5. You may get lost. Don’t panic if you take the wrong turn. Instead, be present in the moment and regroup. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Robert Frost: “I took the road less traveled by, and that made all the difference.” When you take your own path and go your own way, it can lead you to places you may have never thought to go. Your journey is your own. On one of our many hikes, my family decided to go off the beaten path and down a muddy trail rather than the paved one. I’m so glad we did because we ended up being exactly at the right place at the right time and saw a gorgeous rainbow. 

6. One step at a time. The journey can seem long and uphill both ways. On a trail, you will experience unexpected terrain or wildlife. In life, you will come across obstacles that will stop you or slow you down. Keep one foot in front of the other. Left. Right. Left. Right. You will reach your destination if you just keep moving forward. Keep in mind that each of your small steps lead you to the bigger picture. As Lao Tzu says: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one single step.” 

7. Share the path. There are others on their journey, too. Some may be in front of you, some may be behind you, some may be going in opposite direction. You need not be concerned about them. Your journey is not the same. Smile, share a kind word and know there is enough room for everyone. 

8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even when we are holding a map in our hands, we can get lost. We can take a wrong turn. We can lose our sense of direction. It’s OK to ask for help. In life, we will feel stressed and overwhelmed. Ask for the help you need. If you need help with yard work, ask for it or hire someone. If you need help with the laundry, ask one of the kids to throw in a load. If you need help getting rid of the negative chatter or crave a bigger, braver life, hire a life coach. You don’t need to embark on your journey alone. There are people out there who want to help. 

Hiking can teach us many lessons about life. Time spent in nature not only clears the mind, but it helps you truly see what matters the most. 

There are many hiking trails that surround us. Find time to take a hike and experience all the benefits. 

Dr. Suess put it best: “You’re off to great places, today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.”

Amy Wagenknecht is a teacher in Waterloo and a life coach specializing in helping women live bigger, braver lives. For more information, visit amywagenknecht.com or email amybarecoach@gmail.com.

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