Calming the Mind and Getting Outside
As the days grow shorter and the nights longer, the end of the year and holidays always seem to come quickly upon us and everything takes on a frenzied pace. We have parties with every type of food and drink imaginable, kids activities and events, Christmas cards, shopping for gifts and everything in between. I love the excitement during November and December, especially when the weather starts to get cooler and the leaves put on their beautiful display; however, the one aspect that I don’t enjoy is that half of the time, I feel like I’m falling behind and that I’m not doing enough. In spite of the fact that I’m running a million miles per hour while just trying to check things off of my list, I realize that I should be slowing down and enjoying this special season.
Early in our marriage when my husband and I started feeling overcome by the hectic holiday pace, we decided to start a yearly family tradition by going outside and escaping from the holiday commotion and hiking for a day. Being so blessed to have the incredible Smoky Mountains in our backyard, we pledged that this would not only be a onetime break in our schedule, but an annual “tradition” we keep no matter what. After just one year, it became a family priority for celebrating the holidays. Typically, we take our hike around Thanksgiving, and have done the treks in rain, snow and ice. No matter the weather or our other schedules, we do it to get away. Our two sons were babies when we started this tradition, and now they know and look forward to doing this every year. We unplug ourselves from our devices and from the busy activities and just make quality time for us to be together as a family.
Not only is a hike a great way to burn calories with the increase of holiday treats that we all consume over November and December, but there are many other benefits from just getting outside and hiking. As an exercise it tones the whole body, helps prevent and control diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels, and helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Hiking is known to increase happiness and curb depression, as well as increase mental creativity. Most importantly, hiking brings people together. Being outdoors and away from technology and the chaos of our daily lives allows people to connect with themselves and nature in a way that brings about peace and a sense of well-being. As our boys are getting older, I find it harder and harder to get them to talk while distracted by high tech and busy schedules, but by being outside with them, they talk incessantly about anything and everything, while making priceless memories together as a family.
The next time your family asks you what you want to do over the Thanksgiving or Christmas break, think of going on a hike together and getting outdoors and creating new memories for your entire family. I think you too will decide to make it an annual family tradition.