Have you ever been hiking and felt like you were in a bit of a trance? What about when you’re riding a bike and get lost in thought, or paddling on the water and find yourself in a sense of flow? Some people call this mindfulness, and it’s a perfect segue to cultivating gratitude.
Our Top 5 Ways to Cultivate Gratitude in Nature
1. Silent hiking: Similar to a walking meditation, silent hiking allows you focus on your movements in nature without the distraction of urban noise. As you hike, focus on how each step feels. Notice the pressure on each foot, the tensing of your leg muscles, the way your weight shifts from one leg to the other.
2. Start thinking about what your body CAN do (and stop thinking about what it can’t): This is a big one for women. It’s so easy to be frustrated by our pace, our heavy breathing, our tighter-than-usual hiking pants. But if you shift your focus to thinking about what your body is allowing you to do in nature that day, you shift your lens to one of gratitude. This is also true when dealing with pain- if you’re able to look past the immediate discomfort and focus on the natural world around you, you have an added tool in your hiking tool kit.
3. Celebrating the present with intentional gratitude: Gratitude makes us appreciate the value of something, and when we appreciate the value of something we extract more benefits from it; we’re less likely to take it for granted. So stop at an overlook and give thanks to whoever or whatever helped you experience that moment.
4. Keep a gratitude journal in your pack: When you’re out in nature and have a meaningful moment, take time to write down why you’re grateful for it. Its effective because it intentionally focuses our attention on the good, which emphasizes that experience in our minds. Plus you’re able to write something on every hike and have a more personal record of your experience on a particular trail. If you’re a lightweight hiker, it works just as well to stop and list the five things that you are most grateful for in that moment.
5. Bring someone else hiking or paddling: It is a profoundly different experience to be a participant in nature than to be a showcaser of nature. Bringing a friend or family member on a hike is like inviting a friend into your home: you’re able to see things with new eyes and appreciate it in a different way. Bonus points if it's someone's first experience on a particular trail or waterway.
We know that grateful people are more resistant to stress and have a higher sense of self-worth. They celebrate the present and have the capacity to block negative emotions. So why not cultivate that gratitude in the types of places that are so perfect for creating mindfulness and intentionality?
You can read more about why "Gratitude is Good" here.