Staying on the trails means staying strong, both mentally and physically. (And Ghiradelli’s. Lots of it. Nobody’s perfect.)
Here’s my version of 10 Healthy Habits to Cultivate for Hiking Strong (adapted from Amy Morin’’s 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do):
- Dive into Pity Parties. Mentally fit hikers don’t waste time feeling sorry for their blisters, sore feet, or lousy weather. They anticipate. Prepare. Flex when they can and say “No” when they should.
- Waste Time Trying to Impress Others. Know any door mats or flame throwers? People who work overtime trying to intentionally alienate or impress you with those $700 hiking boots? Neither is healthy. Don’t go there. Mental fitness means being kind and fair whenever possible while being able and willing to speak up when appropriate.
- Expend Energy on Things You Can’t Control. Recognizing that things like washed out bridges, weather, and downed trees the size of Rhode Island are often beyond their control, mentally strong hikers recognize that what they can control is their own response and attitude. And do. (And pop in to the nearest chocolatier. Works for me.)
- Feel the World Owes You Anything. Sorry, but neither our national parks nor The Great Outdoors rise and set on you. Instead of trotting out the “gimme, gimme dance,” mentally strong people hit the trail prepared to work and succeed on their merit rather than blaming others for their deficiencies. (The converse is also true.)
- Resent Other People’s Success. It takes strength of character to feel genuine joy and excitement for other people’s success. Like when Cousin Elmer summitted Mount Denali. On his first try. Or Aunt Matlida covered your favorite trail way faster than you. Mentally strong people celebrate another’s succes. They don’t become jealous or resentful when others succeed.
- Take Calculated Risks. This doesn’t mean diving into the deep end of Sheer Stupidity without water wings. Or hiking Mount Rainier’s Shriner Peak sans water. In July. It means carefully weighing pluses and minuses before taking action while not allowing yourself to be paralyzed by inaction. (Or a dearth of Ghirardellis.)
- Let Go of the Past. Acknowledging and learning from the past is beneficial. Mentally fit hikers don’t wallow in prior disappointments or failures. Like being too tuckered to make that final push up the steep, winding trail to Hidden Lakes on The Palisades Trail at Mount Rainier and then beating yourself up over it. Make up your mind to train harder next spring. And tackle the trail again next summer.
- Hang With ‘Happies.’ Mentally strong people choose not to hang with people who insult, threaten, demean, load up their pack with verbal (or real) rocks, or otherwise act like jerks. You may not be able to stop ‘cackling old crows’ from flying overhead. But you don’t have to let them nest in your hair. Mentally strong hikers choose to hang with those who lift them up, not tear them down.
- Embrace Time Alone (or with a close ally). Mentally strong people enjoy and treasure solitude. If you’re a Trail Diehard, you probably already know how to use your downtime to unplug. Reflect. Plan. Recharge. Step. Away. From. The. Mobile. Device. Keep at it!
- Get Up After Being Knocked Down. In developing a commercially viable light bulb, Edison went through over ten thousand prototypes before getting it right. He famously said, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work.”
Whether it’s aching feet, too much mile at the end of your muscle, or weather that’d give Noah cause for pause, every defeat or disappointment is a chance to hit “restart.”
Mentally strong hikers are willing to fail again and again, if necessary, as long as the learning experience brings them closer to their ultimate goals.
Is that five? Okay, I fibbed. Here are a couple more:
- Mentally fit folks don’t expect or demand results, pronto. Whether it’s weight loss, starting a business, raising kids, or day-hiking Silver Falls State Park’s Trail of Ten Falls, mentally strong hikers are “in it for the long haul.” Have staying power. They apply their energy and time in measured doses, celebrating successful milestones along the way. They understand that genuine changes take time.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: I didn’t just roll out of bed yesterday and decide to cruise up 15 miles of Mount Rainier back country to Indian Henry’s. It took time to work up to that. (Don’t tell anyone.)
- Have a Sense. Of. Humor. I don’t know any mentally fit person without a decent sense of humor. If you don’t have a sense of humor, I might lend you mine. But I won’t be responsible for the consequences.
What would you add?