In one of my recent blogs, Disconnect From Technology: Wait, Here Me Out, I talked about the importance of separating oneself from electronic devices in order to improve relationships and experience true human connection. This is especially necessary for our youth as their brains are still developing. It is detrimental to their mental health as they are completely overstimulated by technology on a regular basis. Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Fortnite, and COD have consumed teenagers today and parents are having a difficult time separating their children from this as they themselves are occupied by social media, texting, and emails. This is creating a society full of anxiety. The solution? Take a break! One effective way to do this is to find a hiking trail, bring your family, and connect with nature.
Leave your phones at home or in the car
In order for your hike to lessen your anxiety level, it is crucial for you to leave your phone, iPod, and any other electronic device behind. Otherwise, you will be inclined to respond to texts, listen to music, or take pictures. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that listening to music or taking photos is a bad thing. In many cases, these two things serve as wonderful ways to cope with stress and anxiety. However, in this scenario, the objective is to breath, connect with nature, and eliminate any stimuli that may cause anxiety.
Try these 3 things
Listen to the sounds of nature. Take some time away from your family or friends and listen to the sounds around you. Try to identify what you hear. Do you hear a woodpecker in the distance or the leaves blowing in the wind? Take about 30-60 seconds, close your eyes, and breath. The result? Relaxation. Calm. Quiet. You are experiencing the present moment and breaking from anxiety.
Look for and identify creatures of nature. My wife has been teaching Tinkergarten classes the last few years. These are play based outdoor education classes for young children. Since our two girls, who are 3 and 6, have participated in these classes, it is incredible how connected and aware they are when playing outside. They notice and even identify many different species of plants and animals when we go on family hikes. It is easy to walk through nature without noticing anything around you. However, the goal is to observe and learn about your surroundings so don’t rush through it. Take your time and look up and around you. Again, this act will take you to the present moment, slow down the pace, connect you with nature, and bring you a sense of calm.
Walk, talk, and connect with company. Whether you are with family or friends, take this time to reflect with one another. Typically, when people are walking or doing some sort of activity, they are more likely to share deeper, more meaningful parts of themselves. Learn more about your company and find ways to connect to one another. This will tighten your bond, build trust, and your relationship will grow as a result. I suggest walking a minimum of a few miles if you are physically able to as this will release endorphins in your brain. Endorphins are neurochemicals that occur naturally in the brain and serve as analgesics. In essence, they make you feel relaxed. Another break from anxiety.
If you live in New Jersey, the following will link you to ten recommended trails. Pick a trail, find some company, and enjoy the moment.