Yes you can, be happy!
Originally published 12/2018
As I wrote about last week I’ve been struggling a bit lately. I’m someone, like a lot of you, whose mood sometimes just tanks. When I was younger this would lead to some pretty serious depression. It was part of the impetus for the start of the Ministry of Happiness, once I’d done some research on how to be happier, I needed a way to share it with others and the blog was born.
Over the years I’ve learned a lot of techniques to help myself when this happens. You start with the basics, you eat right, exercise, get the right amount of sleep. For me writing also helps, unfortunately over the last couple of weeks I have been wholly uninspired on that front. You look for any stressors and if they can be dealt with you do that. If they can’t be dealt with, than you don’t have control over them and you have to let them go as best you can. So over the last couple of the weeks I’ve been working on all of this and my mood still hadn’t elevated at all.
At least until yesterday.
Over the last few years writing this blog I’ve really come to believe that happiness only comes through action. Sure, most of the time the basics will keep you level and bring you up if your mood dips. But to get happier or to recover from the bigger dips you have to take action. Sometimes that action relates to a specific problem in your life, but often, there isn’t a clear problem that’s effecting your mood. Many times it’s a bunch of the small things, what I like to call death by paper cuts. Lots of small wounds that bleed your mood, this has been what the last few weeks has felt like.
When I do talks about my book Appalachian Trail Happiness and my time on the Appalachian Trail I relate a very specific message from the wrap up section of the book. That message is Yes you can! Specifically what that message means is yes you can take action. Yes you can go on adventures. The expectation isn’t that you do some of the things I do, although you can! You don’t have to go to Nepal and hike in the Himalayas, or travel to Canada and photograph Polar Bears or hike the Appalachian Trial. What you can do, is do something. You can go for a walk on a local park trail, want to ramp it up, go at night! I assure you there are lots of hikes, art galleries and a whole list of adventures within an hour of your house, all you have to do is look for them.
As a hiker, and someone gearing up to backpack Havasu Falls in four weeks, I decided this weekend to go for a hike. The Pacific Crest Trail crosses Walker Pass about 20 miles from my house and so this Saturday I decided to go out and do a few hours on the trail. Heading north out of the pass is a good walk, it’s basically an uphill run with a solid elevation gain of about a thousand feet over 3-4 miles. So a nice three-hour out and back hike gives you an eight mile hike up over 5000 feet. Nice training for the 10 miles I’ll do into and out of Havasu Falls.
One of the things that I’ve been experiencing lately is feeling completely scattered, like I’m moving in a million directions at once. Hiking is a beautiful cure for that situation, at least while you’re on the trail. Hiking brings focus and mindfulness when you’re on the trail. You have to be in the moment or you find yourself face down on the ground. And although you’re focused on your steps, it allows just enough to space for your brain to go deep on one thing at a time. Hiking let’s me take some deep dives, get some perspective and see things in ways I don’t in everyday life. It helps me declutter my brain, throw away some of the things I shouldn’t be worrying about and put my focus in the right place. That’s what Saturday did for me, it was a beautiful sunny day, windy and a little chilly but once I was climbing it felt good. I ran into a family hiking, I always love seeing munchkin hikers on the trail. One little girl was particularly adorable with her Dora the Explorer backpack and tiny trekking poles.
I took a little break to eat up on one of the saddles I crossed and ate looking over a couple of valleys with snow in the upper elevations. On the trail, even for a day the world gets calm and simpler and I can’t help but feel good. The beauty of this feeling is that it extends past the time on the trail. I head into a new workweek in a better place than I’ve been over the last couple of weeks and my training plan includes being back in the mountains this weekend and each of the weekends leading up to my trip in April.