Backpack hiking is most likely put on the back burner during the holidays, yet we probably need the peace more now than any other season. There have been hectic parties, shopping, gift wrapping and anxious moments at family gatherings that have us wishing we could just zone out and regroup. I believe we need to work towards peace on earth one person at a time, beginning with ourselves. Many people swear by the ocean's waves, the perfect road trip or the best day spa. None of those answers are wrong depending on your individual "happy place." Being an outdoor lover, chances are, your place for peace will be within nature. Hiking enthusiasts know how to achieve it. Others need to have open minds to the options. Let's explore what paths could lead to the elusive relaxation we all strive to attain.
The Sound of Water
White noise and sleep machines are often used to create artificial water sounds to relax the senses. Crashing waves, rambling brooks and even raindrops on metal roofs have the ability to put our minds into a calm and contented state. What if you were to research a few local spots and seek out waterfalls or creek beds within a natural setting that you could enjoy a short hike to and then relax with a blanket or on a flat rock. Unless you have tried this, it may be difficult to comprehend just how soothing and personal your alone time can be and the great benefits you can enjoy within the outdoors.
Scenic Hiking Views
What you see can directly impact your mood, your stress level and your sense of well being. Guided imagery has been found to provide significant stress reduction benefits and is used to help those who suffer from anxiety and management of stress. But what would happen if you were to combine mild aerobic exercise, such as hiking, with a panoramic view? Imagine the benefits to you mentally and physically. It is even stated that pleasing views help us get in touch with deeper levels of wisdom (held on a subconscious level). There have been studies demonstrating the health benefits of imagery as being a powerful aide in stress reduction, tension relief and depression. Therefore, witnessing eye-pleasing subjects such as beautiful forests, mountains, rock formations, rainbows, wildflowers... it stands to reason that the mental impact would be far superior to an image or picture. The possibilities of visual stimulation are endless on the hiking trail. Photographing the beautiful outdoors you encounter can help when you are home and unable to go hiking.
The Sound Of Music
Blind people hear music in the simplest of forms when they are outdoors. The rustling of leaves on the trees when the wind blows, the birds that sing, the crackling wood from a tree branch falling, a babbling brook...these can all be a symphony to the listener. When you are hiking, there are many sounds that you are privileged to hear if you truly pay attention. Wildlife calls are my favorite. Once you hike a few times you will begin to pick up on all the sounds of nature and be able to identify what you are hearing. If you are new to hiking, take it all in when you spend moments taking breaks. Recording noises on your phone and researching them once you return home can actually be loads of fun. Listen to your own breathing as you accelerate your pace. City noises pale in comparison to the call of nature that is all there for you to experience in the wild on your hikes.
Aromatherapy Amid Pines
I love a good massage after a long hike, and yes my muscles love that method of relaxation. But there is something once aromatherapy becomes part of the massage that I can truly feel my senses calming. I am particularly fond of lavender, in fact I grow some in my garden in the summer. During hikes, I am totally taken in with the smell of pines, especially the ponderosa pines of the southwest and parts of southern Canada. A great trail in the forest is my absolute favorite place to hike. I also love the way the earth smells after a rain shower. Wildflowers and blossoms on berry bushes treat my olfactory senses to fabulous smells. I even like the odor of wet leaves on the ground. Mountain air cannot be described, but it is totally pleasing like crisp Fall air even when it's not Fall. Next time you hike, pay attention to the odors in the air. Chances are they will calm you as well as your visuals and sounds.
Hiking is the Complete Package
I honestly can't fathom why anyone would not want to give it a try. The benefits are numerous. Even if you have hiked before, after you read this, chances are you will find yourself more keenly aware of the sights, sounds and smells of Mother Nature. I would love to hear about and welcome comments about your discoveries and encounters with the senses on your hiking missions. Happy hiking!