5 Life Lessons from the Hiking Trail

View of Lake James from the trail

A week at Lake James exploring and hiking in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina taught me 5 life lessons that apply to hiking…and life in general.  I’m going to hold on to these simple reminders and hope you find them helpful as well!

1. Research your path and check your progress along the way

Do some online research, take a photo of the map, and pause to check your progress periodically.  Most well-marked paths will have trail markers (1) and signage to guide you along the way.  Do your research and trust your instincts.  If it doesn’t feel right, you can always retrace your steps until you get back to a recognizable landmark.  Take a moment for a breath, and then you can decide the best next steps forward with a fresh perspective.

2. Always pack snacks and water – and wear comfortable shoes

How many times do you remember your mother telling you this? The American Hiking Society (2) with her on this too.   Timeless advice for many situations!

3. Listen to your body and take rest when you need it

Start slowly, move at your own pace, and take breaks periodically.  This will help you enjoy the journey and feel better – mind and body.

4. Greet others on the trail with a smile

This simple act of kindness sets the tone and can often be contagious (3).  An article in the National Library of Medicine regarding “Emotional Contagion” shares that if you’re feeling happy and cheerful for example, then those around you become more cheerful.  This quote from Thich Nhat Hanh brings this to life beautifully “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy”  – Thich Nhat Hanh

5. Take time to smell the flowers…and notice the beauty of nature all around you.

Notice the sounds of the wind in the trees, listen to the birds, admire the beautiful butterflies, and smell the fragrant flowers.  Nature is a feast for the senses.  Research has shown that being in nature is good for your overall health as well.  An article by UC Davis Health indicates that getting outside can help improve your physical wellness and mental health (e.g. it helps lower heart rate and blood pressure, increases your vitamin D level, and can help lessen stress).

Let’s all take one step at a time and along the way enjoy the journey, notice nature’s beauty, share a smile, take a break, and carry on at your own pace.  These 5 life lessons from the hiking trail are good reminders for us all as we walk the path of life.

Sources referenced:

(1) The Trek: How to Read Blazes and Other Trail Markers

(2) American Hiking Society: The Ten Essentials

(3) National Library of Medicine: Emotional Contagion: A Brief Overview and Future Directions

(4) UC Davis Health: 3 ways getting outside into nature helps improve your health

Check out these links for more information:

American Hiking Society: Hiking 101

American Psychological Association article “Nurtured by Nature”

REI: How to train for hiking

Mayo Clinic: “The mental health benefits of nature: Spending Time outdoors to refresh your mind”

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