Those of you who follow the blog will know that in a few short months, me and the (soon to be) Mrs SavingNinja will be attempting the 12 hour Half Dome hike in Yosemite Valley. There was a moment of realisation last week when we thought, ‘Shit, we’ve never been on a hike that long before, not even close! We’d better do some training.’
So, we researched online and found a long, circular hike in our area, packed up our water pouches, beef jerky, and snacks, and we set off with a spring in our step (it didn’t last long).
The hike we went on took us 6 hours, it traversed the beautiful Surrey Hills, and it covered 22 kilometers from start to finish. Even though it was difficult, we both thoroughly enjoyed the walk. It taught us that we definitely have to do more training before we’re ready for the hike up the monster which is Half Dome, but it also taught us something else, something perhaps profound: Long hikes completely clear your mind.
We both felt elated, happy, and content directly after the hike, but I started to really notice a change whilst on the train the next day. I sat on my morning commute and noticed that my mind was almost completely clear. I still had the recursive worries and ‘planning’ thoughts flying through my head, but they were much quieter, like a whisper, and easier to push away too. I felt like the normally buzzing part of my brain was occupying 10% of my head instead of 90%, this gave my mind space to be present and feel happy.
I sat there in bliss after realising that I was content and calm, I didn’t even want to turn on my Kindle and read as I was enjoying the serenity too much. Instead, I continued to listen to the Peaceful Piano playlist on Spotify and relax, for over half of my journey.
It’s now 3 days later and I’m still experiencing this bliss.
What the hell is happening? Is the secret to being content and living in the moment really just to go on a long walk?
What’s Going On?
Whilst being in this blissful state, I’ve tried to analyse how and why this is happening, this is what I came up with:
1) All of my thoughts had a chance to get out into the open. I was walking for 6 whole hours, with my closest friend. There were periods where we didn’t talk, and long stretches where we did. Everything that we wanted to talk about, got talked about.
The walk was like a repository for me to pour all of my mounting thoughts into, worries and dreams both. It left us feeling as if we’d discussed everything that we had to discuss, which was much needed with the wedding just around the corner.
2) Reconnecting with nature. There’s something about being in the beauty of nature that makes you feel grounded and thankful. Something along the lines of, “How lucky am I to live in a place where all of this beauty is right on my doorstep? And no matter how much I save, or work, I’ll always have access to this.”
It brings you back down to earth and makes you realise that to be happy, all you really need are your loved ones and nice walks.
3) Switching off from technology. Although we still had our phones out to take pictures, we were, for the most part, completely phone free. For 6 hours! I don’t remember the last time in the waking day that we haven’t gone on our phones for that long.
In this day and age, people are glued to their phones, it’s like an addiction. With all of the good that they bring, it’s nice to reconnect to real life and switch off from time to time.
4) Fatigue. Walking for 6 hours is pretty damn tiring. Maybe an empty head is just the result of being extremely tired? This would be a pretty crappy explanation to a nice feeling, so I hope not!
It is strange that this feeling of contentedness only seemed to occur when going on an extended walk. I wonder where the boundary is? Would we feel this way after hiking for only 3 hours? Or less?
There’s also the possibility that we were just having a plain old nice day, which left us feeling happy. We’ll soon find out when we go on our next extended walk.
Have you ever felt a feeling like this after completing a strenuous activity? Let me know in the comments below.