February 23rd, 2021
Finding Winter Wellness with Mindful Snowshoeing
For the many Mainers who’ve spent months in a state of ongoing change and uncertainty, the pandemic might be starting to take its toll. As winter slowly progresses, you’re probably searching for new ways to safely spend time outside the home.
Luckily, there’s one activity that covers a whole lot of ground. Snowshoeing, particularly when it’s accompanied by mindfulness and meditation, can be one of the most restorative forms of winter recreation we have readily available in Maine.
WHY MINDFULNESS MATTERS
Mindfulness is a therapeutic technique that involves focusing one’s awareness on the present moment by acknowledging the sights, sounds, sensations and thoughts as they arise in real time. It can help you achieve a state of focus that brings mental clarity and physical ease.
According to the American Psychological Association, practicing mindfulness can reduce stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms, boost memory and focus, decrease emotional reactivity, provide greater cognitive flexibility and even enhance interpersonal relationships.
HOW TO PRACTICE MINDFULNESS WHILE SNOWSHOEING
From the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle to Harris Farm in Dayton, (and everywhere in between) there are no shortage of scenic snowshoe trails to choose from in Maine. Once you’ve taken your pick, (or maybe you have your very own secret trail) strap on your favorite pair of snowshoes and set off on an adventure. Here are a few steps that can help you get into a state of mindful awareness:
Take in Scenery with Your Senses
Start by simply taking it all in. Feel the crispness of the air on your face. Hear the sounds of nature around you—the falling snow, the rustling leaves and branches, the wildlife rummaging around. Observe the light shining on each individual object. Smell the trees and freshly fallen snow.
Focus on Your Breath
One of the best ways to practice mindfulness is by syncing up with your breath. Inhale with a long, deep breath, hold for a pause, and slowly exhale. You can even repeat: “I breathe in. I breathe out,” to anchor your mind to the process and help you stay out of your thoughts.
Find Rhythm With Your Movement
With snowshoeing comes the ease of repetition and a state of rhythmic bliss. This, in and of itself, is a form of mindfulness. Move at your own steady cadence and strive to time each step with your breathing techniques, perhaps still repeating “I breathe in. I breathe out.”
Stop For a Mindful Snack
Mindful eating is a great way to tap into the sense of taste and truly enjoy a snowshoeing time-out. Stop for a few minutes to savor your trail snack, taking the time to chew each bite and be fully aware of its texture and taste in your mouth. Eating becomes an intentional act and a way to practice mindfulness on the snowshoe trail.
Why Guided Meditations are Great For Snowshoeing
Another way to engage in mindfulness while you snowshoe is by practicing a guided meditation. If focusing on your surroundings is still distracting you, which is normal, grab a pair of earphones and listen to a guided meditation. Apps such as Headspace www.headspace.com, Calm www.calm.com or even YouTube offer a wide variety of guided meditations that vary in length and cover your unique meditation goals.
Other Snowshoeing Benefits
In addition to the numerous benefits that come from practicing awareness, mindful snowshoeing also imparts many physical benefits. It can enhance cardiovascular health, strengthen the muscles of the legs, burn calories (420-1000 calories per hour, depending on pace and snow conditions) and provide a low-impact fitness activity that’s safer for the joints.
TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR WINTER WELLNESS
As we head into this particular season, it might feel like too many things are still unknown. Know that you have more control than you realize! Simply by grabbing some warm gear, a pair of snowshoes and employing a mindful mindset, you can experience one of the most enjoyable Maine winters yet.
— By LeeMarie Kennedy, Copywriter and Content Marketing Creator in Boston, MA. When she’s not meticulously wordsmithing, she can be found teaching and coaching as a RYT-500 yoga instructor and wellness specialist, walking in nature, traveling the world, laughing, drinking coffee or eating something delicious.