The wonderful thing about self-improvement is that it can happen at any stage of life and any time of year. You don’t need to wait til New Year’s to try to make a change! All you need is that spark or desire to make a change in the first place, and then set your mind to it.
Will it be easy? Probably not. But if you start small, and take tiny bites that you know you can chew, self-improvement is totally doable! And hiking is a surprisingly amazing conduit for realization and change.
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- Take Time for You – While you might associate being a better person with doing more for others, the truth is you need to take time for yourself first in order to be that better person. If you are burned out and stressed, you will not be a positive contribution to anyone. Taking time out for yourself for a long solo hike is not selfish; it gives you the opportunity to refresh your own well being and hit the ‘refresh’ button on life, if you will. The next step is to cut out time for this in your schedule. Set aside some time daily and a longer block of time weekly. If you are like most, this may seem near impossible; but guess what? You can find 15 minutes every day. Whether that means waking up 15 minutes earlier than everyone else, or staying up 15 minutes later, or sneakily tacking on an extra 15 minutes to an errand you’re running, you can do it.
- Be Dedicated to Your Personal Time Now – If you don’t respect your personal time, no one else will either. Take your 15 minute meditation time in the morning or daily time on the front stoop just listening to nature or daily walk (or run!) and don’t allow for interruptions or excuses!
- Choose How You Start Your Day – You can choose to start your day grumpy and irritable or you can choose to start your day grateful that you were given another chance to enjoy life and the outdoors. The choice is always yours. Choose to wake up, and say a few things out loud you are grateful for and watch how this daily habit changes your day and your life. You can of course save these declarations for your alone time if you want, so your partner or kids aren’t giving you funny looks when you start babbling on. Or even better, get the kids or your partner involved and them say a few things they are grateful for as well.
- Start a Gratitude Journal – Bring a hiking journal with you on trail. Even if you don’t write in it every day, break it out when you are feeling overwhelmed or frustrated with trail life and write down your feelings – even if they are negative. Then, give it a new spin. For example, even though I didn’t hike as many miles as I wanted, now I know I need to wake up early and give myself more time on my next big mile day. I am exactly where I am supposed to be in this moment and am grateful for the great things to come.
- Keep Positive People Close to You and negative people out– Your attitude will directly affect your day; so if you are in a foul mood, your day will spiral into a real bad day. Keep positive friends close by and reel them in when you need a boost. Don’t be ashamed of your bad moods, just take responsibility for them. Grab a friend, talk about it and then let it go. One of the worst things you can do is try to vent about your bad day to another person who is also full of negativity. Then it just become a contest of who is having the worst day and will leave you in an even worse mood.
- Be the Person You Envision – Don’t be afraid to set big goals and envision yourself in them. Whether you want to hike a 14er or thru-hike the Appalachian Trail or even just walk a little further than you did last time – be the person that you envision successfully reaching those goals. Be someone who sets goals, takes risks and faces challenges with grace. While hard at first, the more you practice, the closer you will be to becoming that successful person. Keep in mind, the bigger or crazier sounding the goal may be, doesn’t mean it’s impossible, it just may take a little bit more time.
- Shut Down and Unplug – Take time off from technology and unplug from your social media every once in a while. Hiking, or even just sitting in nature, is a great time to practice this! If you want to be a better you, you need connections – real life connections. You need to see faces and hear voices and so do other people. Take the initiative to ask a friend out on a hike, or make conversation with those you meet out on the trail. You’ll make a difference for yourself and for someone else.
Some of these may sound like small and trivial things, but change really does come from new, consistent, small habits.
Share your favorite activities or habits for personal growth in the comments below!
For more hiking inspiration, check out:
- Why Hike The Appalachian Trail?
- How To Get In The Habit Of Walking Everyday
- Don’t Let These Excuses Keep You Off The Trail