Nature experience at the waterfall at Schwarzwasserbach | ©  Kleinwalsertal Tourism eGen | Photographer: Dominik Berchtold

06 Sep. 2023 · Summer Activities | Experience nature consciously

In the here and now. Mindful hiking.

The diversity of hiking! Experience the moment. Feel the nature. Find relaxation beyond the pressure to perform. 5 tips for mindful hiking in Kleinwalsertal: Step by step in the here and now.

The journey is the goal. That’s easy to say. But let's be honest: Often, when we're hiking, our focus is on reaching the summit. "The signpost said three hours? We can do it faster." Our gaze is fixed on the destination, whether it's the hut or the summit. The altitude meters and kilometers that we can boast about afterwards. And for that, we can occasionally push our own limits of what's possible. Once you've achieved it, there's time for everything else. Taking a breath. Enjoying the view. Being in the moment. Although... maybe the focus is already on the way back? Trying to get back down as quickly as possible and directly.

Do you feel caught? No? Well then, congratulations! You belong to the more conscious hikers among us.

Yes? Then you're certainly not alone.

Nature adventure place Hörnlepass | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Oliver Farys

How you can experience hiking anew

Of course, there's a distinction to be made. Hiking is a sport. Expanding your own abilities. Mastering challenges. It's a great way to improve physical fitness, build endurance, and strengthen muscles. But the fact is: In a world characterized by constant acceleration, performance pressure, and distractions, many people long for a break. They wish for a retreat where they can find peace and connect with nature. A more mindful and conscious approach to hiking can ensure that you take more sustainable relaxation from your vacation.

 Barefoot run over the forest floor | ©  Kleinwalsertal Tourism eGen | Photographer: Dominik Berchtold

Mindful and conscious hiking – what is that?

Did you know? Studies show that your brain treats situations you think about in the same way it treats real events. It doesn't matter if what's happening (e.g. work-related pressure) is currently occurring or only in your thoughts. But your brain tells you that everything is present and happening right now.

This naturally leads to stress. The key now is to consciously dwell in the present moment, to perceive your surroundings and your own sensations. In this state, the parasympathetic part of the nervous system is activated. The so-called rest-and-digest nerve that controls the body's regeneration processes.

Feeling the richness of nature intensely, learning to appreciate and love it. This practice invites you to consciously experience the present moment. Step by step, you focus on walking and immersing yourself in nature. Observe the little things – the gentle splashing of the stream, the colorful plants by the wayside, or the buzzing of insects. Through more or less targeted mindfulness exercises, you actively direct your attention to the beauty of nature and the sensations of your own body. This way, unwanted thoughts or rumination are avoided during hiking, and disruptive thought patterns are prevented from hindering the full experience of nature.

5 Tips for Mindful Hiking in Kleinwalsertal

1. The Right Route: Not every route is equally suitable for mindful hiking. The regenerative  trails of the "Walser Omgang" offer a great opportunity – just right for feeling, seeing, and discovering.

2. Embracing New Slowness: Mindful hiking is no longer about reaching a destination; it's about the process of walking itself. Take slow steps in between. Don't always walk at the same speed. Be conscious and move at a reduced pace, feeling the movements of your body.

3. Let Your Gaze Wander: Often, our gaze is directed forward. Shift your attention to nearby details, but also let your gaze glide into the distance or find small details along the path. Don't actively seek extraordinary things; simply observe what naturally appears in your field of view.

4. Let Thoughts Be: Don't pressure yourself to think of nothing. Thoughts will come and go – that's completely normal. Instead of getting carried away by them, regard them like clouds passing by. Gently bring your attention back to walking or standing.

Think you'll find it difficult to implement these recommendations? Then try our final tip. This playful technique can help shift your focus away from thoughts and toward sensory perception.

5. The 5-4-3-2-1 Mindfulness Technique for Conscious Hiking: This playful technique grounds you in your senses:

  • What are 5 things you can see? Observe your surroundings. Find five things that particularly fascinate YOU (sky, ground, animals, etc.).
  • What are 4 things you can touch? Feel the warm ground and the sun. Touch rocks, bark, moss – feel the surfaces.
  • What are 3 things you can hear? Close your eyes and listen to bird song, rustling leaves, voices, or animal sounds. Let the sounds affect you.
  • What are 2 things you can smell? Take deep breaths in and out, smell the scents of nature. Grasp the aromas in the air.
  • What's one thing you can taste? Take a sip of your water. Take a bite of your snack. How does a small bite taste? Is it sweet, sour, salty, or bitter? Hard or soft?
Erholung am Rohrweg | ©  Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Fotograf: Dominik Berchtold

Hiking is diverse

Hiking reveals facets, as diverse as the landscape of Kleinwalsertal. From the spirited and fast movements of trail running to the powerful energy of athletic summit quests, and even to the meditative tranquility of mindful hiking – each form of movement reflects the individual needs and interests of people. Regardless of whether you're seeking a sweaty run, a sporting challenge, or a deep immersion in nature, hiking offers ample room for what YOU currently need. And that can change again the next time.

And if you're unsure? Then try it out on your next mountain vacation – perhaps even just during a conscious part of your next hike.

Sarina Berchtold Trailrunning | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Dominik Berchtold

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