Mindful Mondays: Mindful Hiking


F! Feeling Bad, let’s practice mindful hiking!

 

For this mindfulness exercise, we’re heading outside to nature! Hiking in nature excellent for your brain, body, and mood!


How

Remember to gently bring you focus back to the present if your mind starts to wander. Become an observer of your experience.

  1. Find a local park, hiking trail, or other nature space.
  2. Start hiking…
    • Observe your surroundings.
    • Listen to what you can hear.
    • Notice the colors, textures, and any other visual aspects of your surroundings.
    • Experience what you can smell, both the pleasant and unpleasant odors.

Why

Observational Mindfulness

Taking a mindful hike requires observational mindfulness, which is a foundational way to build agency. If you’ve read my other Mindful Monday blogs, you know I’m on a nerd-out about this topic, especially regarding agency and reducing the negative consequences of gaslighting. To reduce anxiety, and for those healing from toxic relationships, it is imperative that you rebuild your ability to trust what you perceive in the world around you. Mindful observing via mindful hiking provides you the opportunity to be in the present and build awareness with the information your senses detect in your immediate surroundings. It’s not the cure, but the place to start.

The Science

According to Capaldi, et. al. (2015), it has been established that human beings benefit from being in nature. The biophilia hypothesis argues that because we evolved in nature, and are a part of nature, we are compelled to engage with nature. There are two theories in human behavior research describing the benefits of nature. The Attention Restoration Theory (ART) claims that mental fatigue with modern life wears down your ability to pay attention, and that being in nature restores that ability—much like refilling your stamina bar in a video game.

Stress Reduction Theory (SRT) describes nature as a tool for taking you out of “fight, flight, or freeze mode” by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. SRT recognizes that modern daily life is so overstimulating and stressful that most of us are walking around with high anxiety and little relief.

A study in 2021 (Jimenez, et.al) found evidence to support both ART and SRT claims about the benefits of human interaction with nature by demonstrating “improved cognitive function, brain activity, blood pressure, mental health, physical activity, and sleep.”

Images of nature are even beneficial (White, et. al., 2018), and virtual nature experiences have some benefit for people that are unable to get outside (Mayer, Frantz, and Dolliver, 2008). There are even studies showing that we are nicer to others after experiencing nature.

Summary

GET OUT AND MINDFULLY OBSERVE NATURE by mindful hiking

, or at least engage in virtual nature experiences, become a plant parent, and/or hang some pictures of nature. The benefits are astounding and include:

  • Less depression and anxiety
  • Increased creativity, focus, and patience
  • Better heart health
  • Happier life
  • Positive social interactions

References and Further Reading

Associations between Nature Exposure and Health: A Review of the Evidence

Flourishing in nature: A review of the benefits of connecting with nature and its application as a wellbeing intervention

Lifestyle Prescription for Depression with a Focus on Nature Exposure and Screen Time: A Narrative Review

Mental Health Benefits of Nature

Nurtured by nature

A Prescription for “Nature” – the Potential of Using Virtual Nature in Therapeutics

Stanford Researchers Find Mental Health Prescription: Nature

Why Is Nature Beneficial? The Role of Connectedness to Nature


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Disclaimer: This content is intended for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for mental health or medical treatment. It is important for those with clinical and medical diagnoses and those with psychological or physical symptoms that are distressing to receive the appropriate treatment from trusted and trained practitioners.