You wake up, bleary-eyed. Straining, you stretch out your arm and slam down on your alarm clock’s snooze button, providing you with a brief respite before the alarm’s insistent blares return. Eventually, the alarm blares finally force you away from your cocoon of sleep, and you stumble awake, lethargically beginning to preparing for the day.
For many students and parents alike, this is a common ritual during the weekdays, a way of life—and inevitable. As a high school student, I often do not get a sufficient amount of sleep, along with many of my classmates and friends. We prioritize our work and grades over sleep, often pulling all-nighters and staying up all night studying for tests rather than save a few hours of sleep.
However, therein lies the root of the problem. As nearly everyone has experienced from those sleepless nights, without sleep, we become bleary, unproductive zombies that struggle with even the most menial tasks. Yet people still continue the same cycle, making the same mistakes and continuously not getting enough sleep, myself included.
So recently, I have been trying to change. Rather than sacrifice precious sleep for seemingly more important tasks, I have been trying to balance my work and sleep, sleeping before a set time and organizing my work to be done earlier in the evening. And because of this, I’ve been noticing improvements, as I feel more energized, positive, and get more work done.
So if you’re struggling to be productive at work or can’t seem to concentrate, try taking a nap. Perhaps you just haven’t had enough sleep, and need just another hour of sleep to be productive. Although you may be skeptical on how much of a difference sleeping can make, the effects from a good night’s sleep are pretty incredible; simply by closing one’s eyes and resting for a while, your mood and energy levels can totally shift!
It’s difficult to imagine taking a break from your busy life, with all the responsibilities expected of you; your responsibilities at work need to be fulfilled, the chores need to be accomplished, and the children need to be taken care of before the end of the day.
For me, taking a break from my hectic school life was impossible to imagine, but somehow, persuaded by my mother and on a flash of recklessness, I managed to push myself out of my comfort zone and try something uncharacteristic: I applied to be a volunteer at Walden West, an outdoor science school for elementary schoolers.
When I arrived at the camp, I was skeptical and instantly regretted my decision, stressed about making up a week’s worth of work, worried about interacting with children, and despairing about being disconnected from technology and the rest of the world for a whole week. But throughout the week, my perspective made a dramatic transition.
For instance, I gradually became more mindful of myself and my surroundings. Through the daily six-hour hikes, you experience constant exposure to actual forests, with natural wildlife only seen in textbooks, age-old trees that tower over you and real forest dirt and soil, covered up by concrete and floors in our daily lives. And once you’re constantly immersed in nature, you begin to see subtleties in your surroundings impossible to notice in everyday life: the tracings on the trail, the crisp smell of bark and the sound of crackling leaves and twigs. And through these observations comes new discoveries and feelings that are almost impossible to replicate in daily life, such as the excitement you feel when encountering a banana slug, the wonder you feel when spotting deer grazing nearby, and the awe you experience when you see the effects of a recent landslide.
I also discovered the magnificence and incredible power of nature. One of the most memorable experiences that changed my mindset forever was the night hike, where I hiked with my hiking group during the night. Almost completely in the dark, I was forced to rely solely on the sound of footsteps and vague shadows of people in front of me; entirely dependent on my senses and nature and completely aware of the moment, I realized my insignificance and powerlessness in comparison to nature, gaining a newfound awe and appreciation for the vastness and majesty of nature as well.
And that was all the beginning. Through this camp, I learned to free myself from distractions and to simply blanken my mind, to enjoy and be aware of the moment. Free from notifications on my phone, free from the worry of assignments, free from stress about friends and drama, I could simply live in the present, and I truly enjoyed myself and my interactions with nature.
And now, back at home, reminiscing about the camp and typing up this newsletter, I’ve come to a startling realization. I’m beginning to forget how I felt at camp: the feeling of being aware of myself, of letting go of worries, and of enjoying the moment. As I sit here and type, I’m completely oblivious to my surroundings. My ears have begun to tune out everything besides the clicking of my fingernails hitting the keyboard; my eyes have begun to glaze over and ignore everything besides the screen outside of me. I’m simply doing a task, not noticing what’s around me, and although this is beneficial for saving time and energy, it’s dangerous when applied constantly, as I often forget to be mindful of myself and enjoy the moment.
For me, this is a mindset I am trying to change, and I’ve realized that a key part to changing this mindset is nature. By simply stepping outside and going to a park, I can keep in touch with nature and remember the serenity and happiness I obtained just by walking or sitting down. It’s a great way to relax, tone down, and take a breather from the stress and responsibilities we all have.
Overall, sometimes we all need to hit pause on our life, and connecting with nature is one way to allow that small escape from life. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, hit pause on your life, take a step outside and enjoy the healing effects from nature, and remember: Live in the moment!
Sometimes it’s difficult to find the motivation to take time out of our busy schedule for a hike. However, here are some reasons which will hopefully provide that motivation needed to take that step outside!
- Push your limits: For some, pushing your limits may simply be finding the courage to go outside and exercise. Despite your experience and capabilities, hiking is always a good way to explore your boundaries and challenge not other people, but your self, pushing yourself towards a new goal each time and making yourself a better person
- Meet new people: Hiking is a great way to meet new people, especially if you’re hiking in a group such as in Stroller Hikes. Hiking gives you a chance to explore the outdoors with other people, and the bonds formed from hiking may even lead to deep and long-lasting connections throughout one’s life.
- An escape from real life: Need a break from the hustle and hurry of real life? Take a hike. Hiking will allow you an “escape” from the stress of real life and an outlet to relax. In fact, studies have shown that being in nature significantly improves one’s well being and stress levels.
- Get fit: If you often lack the motivation to exercise, try hiking! Hiking isn’t as physically demanding as running or other sports, and also allows you to enjoy the moment and de-stress.
- Family time: Hiking with family is a great way to improve your family relations. With no distractions other than nature, hiking is great for family bonding, as it allows deep conversations and a greater awareness of one’s surroundings.
- Appreciation: Hiking will help you gain a greater appreciation of nature and your life. Often after hiking, I feel more positive, relaxed and appreciative of people around me.
So go give hiking a try, whether it be a Stroller Hikes hike or a solo hike; you never know how it will change you.
When people imagine hiking, sometimes they imagine long, planned out trips that require time and effort to pack and plan. However, sometimes we forget the essence of the hikes in the first place: to spend time with friends and family, and to enjoy nature. Often times, we get too wrapped up in the planning and preparing that we forget to truly enjoy ourselves.
One day, while walking around my neighborhood I stumbled upon a sandy path, with few houses and a path resembling a trail. After this discovery, I went back home and soon returned with my family, ready to explore this trail. We journeyed along this road for a while, observing the greenery increasing in quantity and the evidences of civilization growing fainter and fainter. Walking along this trail for around half an hour, I slowly realized that me and my family were, in essence, hiking. We had all the elements: the trail, wildlife, people to accompany us, and the beautiful outdoor environment environment. In fact, that afternoon, I felt renewed, refreshed, like a new person. I let my burdens and fears fly away with the breeze in that hot summer day, and simply enjoyed nature.
Overall, that July summer day really opened my eyes on what a hike had to, or rather didn’t have to be. Hiking isn’t about the planning and preparing, or getting the perfect weather and perfect trail and perfect environment and perfect people to be with, it’s about just spending time outside, in nature, with people who truly matter to you. No matter what, there’s always a time to hike, and when there’s a will, there’s a way, so step outside, and go hiking!
The hiking trail I discovered was part of the Parker Ranch Trails, which eventually leads to Fremont Older (http://strollerhikes.com/location/fremont-older/). Parker Ranch Trails starts near the corner of Beauchamps Lane and Prospect Road in Saratoga, CA.