Here are 10 tips to help you quiet your thoughts during a hike and prepare for your first mindful outdoor session.
1. Choose a familiar trail
Mindful hiking helps you ground yourself, and nature plays a key role here. However, you don't have to plan a wilderness weekend getaway or even a day trip. You can keep social distance by remaining close to home and starting with a small trail.
Find a circular path next to where you live. In case you live in the city, the Trail passes through many urban areas in Canada. You can choose from routes like the Capital Pathway in Ottawa or Toronto's Waterfront Trail. With 80% of Canadians living less than half-an-hour away from one of the green routes, you can find a track that's right for you.
2. Make a plan
Once you have selected the Trail, it's time to review your route in advance. Start by taking the necessary safety precautions and inform everyone about when and where your hike will take place.
Make sure to have technology on you to help you navigate your whereabouts and contact others in case of emergency. From mobile phones to satellite devices, it's essential to keep your family and friends informed and be able to share your GPS location.
3. Wear layers
Wearing the right clothes for the weather is critical for a successful hike. It will also help you remain present and relaxed if you're not feeling freezing cold or uncomfortably warm.
You might want to wear an additional layer of thermal clothing and a woolly jumper. As long as your outfit keeps you warm, dry and is a light-wear, you're ready for the hike.
4. Use credible sources
Whether it's the weather forecast or Covid-related updates, make sure you follow trustworthy websites. Even though Canadians are free to leave their homes, the situation remains pretty unpredictable.
To stay on the safe side, check the national government’s website daily as well as the sources governed by your local municipality. Get inspiration for your hiking locations through well-researched travel blogs or if you’re up for a longer adventure, book a hike in Canada that is already fully planned for you.
5. Unplug from all devices
Even though we suggest you take your mobile phone with you, keep it on airplane mode most of the time. Don't turn on music or audiobooks. Instead, let your mind wander and listen to the sounds of nature. Taking some time offline is especially useful to empty your mind if you feel stressed and your thoughts are always racing.
6. Bring a medical kit
Leave some room in your backpack for a small first aid kit and handy items in case of an emergency. Add a pack of waterproof matches, an outdoor foil blanket, a fire starter and a paracord. If you get lost or have to stay overnight, items like a whistle and a multi-purpose tool are useful.
7. Maintain physical distance
By now, most of us are used to practicing social distancing with those around us. However, remember that even if you're in fresh air and surrounded by nature, the same rules apply.
When you meet fellow hikers, keep a distance of at least 6 feet (2 meters) from another individual. But that doesn't mean you can’t say hi, have a friendly chit-chat and share your experience of mindful hiking.
8. Don't rush
The main idea behind practicing mindful movement is to be in the present and not fixated on the end-goal. Choose a comfortable pace so that you can notice your breathing, surroundings and feel immersed in the now. No need to overthink it – your body knows what to do as long as you don't allow your mind to intervene.
9. Embrace the present moment
Along the Trail, select a few spots to stop and observe. When admiring your surroundings, engage in all of your senses – sight, hearing, smell, touch and even taste. This habit keeps your mind from and helps you to immerse in the present moment.
10. Practice gratitude
Finish off your hike by taking a long pause: inhale and exhale and think about all of the things you're thankful for. It doesn't have to be anything extraordinary. It can even be as simple as appreciating the bed you sleep in, your loved ones waiting at home for you and the chance to take some time off for yourself.