The hardest walk of my life took place last month on Queensland’s tallest mountain: Mount Bartle Frere. It was signposted as a 2 day walk but Rani and I thought that if we left early enough, we could get it done in a day. We were wrong…
It was a beautiful day, perfect conditions for a walk of this magnitude and the surroundings were picturesque. We walked through stunning rainforest, over waterfalls and had incredible views the whole time. It was challenging as there were many steep, muddy and rocky parts to the climb, as well as a few vertical climbs up tree roots and branches.
It was about 1pm when we thought we were near the top and we had been walking for 5 hours already. We knew that we had to be walking back by 1.30pm to avoid walking at night but we felt like we were so close to the top that we pushed on.
At 3pm, we still hadn’t reached the top and that’s when we decided to bite the bullet and turn around. The alternative was to risk walking dangerous terrain in the dark and that wasn’t a risk we were willing to take on this day.
We managed to get down all the dangerous parts before nightfall, but we still ended up walking for over 2 hours in the dark with our head-torches. The last 2km were extremely challenging for both of us as our legs turned to jelly and my feet and legs were in a lot of pain.
The last kilometre was agony and Rani helped me through by distracting me from the pain, talking to me and asking random questions. We walked 19.8km over 13 hours and even though we didn’t reach the top, it still felt like a massive accomplishment.
There were many lessons learned on this day, the biggest one: if it says it’s a 2 day hike – give it 2 days!
When people ask what is the one thing that has helped you the most in my recoveries, my answer is simple – Gratitude.
The art of practising gratitude has been an incredibly powerful tool I have used throughout my recoveries and in my day to day life. Gratitude has helped me to stay present, grounded and enabled me to shed light on all the amazing things still surrounding me in each moment – no matter how dire the situation I am faced with.
So, how can gratitude help you?
- Boosts your mood and motivation
- Brings positive energy and joy into your life, regardless of any challenges you might be facing
- Helps you bring awareness to the things in life that shouldn’t be taken for granted
- Creates new neural pathways and helps your brain rewire itself to automatically look for the good in every situation
My top 5 tips for bringing more gratitude into your life
1. Take a moment to ask yourself – really describe what it is you are grateful for!
‘What can I be grateful for today and why?’
‘Who am I grateful for and why?’
2. Give yourself a little love – what about yourself are you grateful for? Go on, list 3-5!!
Set yourself the goal of bringing grateful each day.
Start this by:
- Journaling daily for one week about 3 – 5 things each day, about yourself and about your life.
- Do this at the start and end of each day for the week and stop to answer…
- What did you notice by practicing this?
Don’t just look externally. Being able to extend gratitude towards yourself is a fantastic way to improve self-esteem and self-confidence. This can be as simple as acknowledging you have a wonderful smile, or a great sense of humour!
3. We often focus on the big and obvious things, but what about the small things?
As I write this, I notice a bee who is busy collecting nectar from a gorgeous white and yellow flower.
I am grateful for the few minutes I have been transfixed on watching it, as it delicately adds the nectar to its stores it carries on its legs.
I am grateful for the flower for providing that sweet nectar and the subtle perfume as the breeze carries it past my nose.
I am grateful for my sense of smell. It allows me to experience this moment by adding a fragrance to this whole minute.
4. You can do it at any time, any day and anywhere! But to start, try one minute in the morning and one minute before you go to bed.
Why not start your day with one minute of gratitude before you get stuck into your day? Ask yourself, ‘What am I grateful for this morning?’ Why not end your day with, ‘How did I feel today?’
5. Express it! Don’t just keep it to yourself, spread that magic around!
Pay it forward. Why not add a little sparkle into the lives of others? Tell someone you love them. Tell them they have beautiful eyes or you simply love their company…You get my gist!
What am I grateful for right now?
Today, I am grateful I woke up with fresh air in my lungs, a heart that rhythmically keeps beating and a brain that keeps functioning regardless of the amount of trauma it has experienced over the past 30 years.
Today, I am grateful for the amazing people in my life who stand by me with unwavering love and dedication.
Today, I am grateful for nature.
Today I am grateful for having fresh, good quality food and water to nourish my body.
Today, I am grateful for being able to share this with you.
Today, I am grateful I am alive – right here, right now.
What are you grateful for in this very moment?
We are all a part of nature and that means we operate in cycles. Like the seasons of the year, similarly we have seasons in our lives.
We’re born in spring time, growing, learning and being nourished. Then, at about 20-25 we go into our summer, we have grown to adulthood and this is our prime ‘til about 50. Then we go into autumn, followed by winter – still just as beautiful, but very different times in our lives.
In this modern world, we have created a world that to some degree separates us from nature. Technology, while being an incredible development in human evolution, has contributed to this separation from the natural and changed the way we live.
In the last 200 years, we have developed in some ways more than the previous millennia. Technology also provides ways for us to return to nature, but unless we surround ourselves in nature as a conscious choice, it can be a challenging practice.
Why is nature important?
Well, put aside the fact that wifi has only existed for the past 15 years or so, now it surrounds us almost every waking minute, and there hasn’t even been much research into the effects it has on our system. When we return to nature, we tap into an infinite resource for healing.
When we return to nature, we tap into an infinite resource for healing
Simply connecting to the earth – skin contact with the ground – has incredible benefits to our overall health and wellbeing. It reduces inflammation, calms our nervous system into a para-sympathetic state and calms the mind.
Research has shown that taking a walk in the forest is more effective than anti-depressants. I’d much rather take a walk in the forest any day of the week than take medication with a long list of potential side effects.
Whether it’s going to the beach, taking a camping trip or simply going to a quiet park, being in nature makes us feel more relaxed, our body can heal more effectively and it’s just an epic way to spend your time.
Everyone can benefit from spending more time in nature, especially when healing from an illness or injury. Even if you’re not in recovery, being in nature can help to reset your mind. You turn off your phone and immerse yourself in the moment, then your mind has a chance to clear out all the mental chatter than is constantly going on.
When you’re expanding, growing and challenging yourself, it’s really important to take time out because it can help you consolidate all that you’ve learned, as well as shift your perspective, much the same as going to new places, exploring new hobbies or simply going a different way to work. It forms new neural pathways in your brain and ultimately helps to expand your mind.
You may be asking yourself… Really? Just being in nature can do all that?
I can only speak from personal experience, when I completely disconnect from the world of technology and surround myself with trees, mountains and sit round the fire, I feel more inspired than ever. It recharges me and allows me to re-enter the world with renewed vigour and spirit.
Here’s a list of ways you can get back into nature:
- Go for a walk in the park or anywhere in the forest
- Connect your feet or hands on the ground, walk barefoot
- Go camping
- Go to the beach
- Go swimming
- Bring flowers and plants into your house
- If you live somewhere where there are animals, just sit and listen to the birds
There are so many ways to bring a little bit of nature into your life to boost your healing and expand your mind and life. There’s really no excuse: schedule it, do it and see how you feel afterwards.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed doing training walks with many different people on this journey to Kokoda but this hike by myself was spectacular. It was in the heart of the valley in the Blue Mountains, called the Grand Canyon track. It is the most beautiful walk I have done in my life.
It was so peaceful getting out of the city, walking by myself, day dreaming about life and enjoying the scenery. Spending time in nature is so healing in many different ways, as is spending time by yourself.
Today we did a hike with an awesome group of people, 6 of us are on the team who are walking Kokoda together. It was a beautiful day in Kuringai National Park and we walked 10km on the Sphinx Track.
I first walked this track back in April and it was a struggle to get through the last couple of kilometres. I felt excited by the progress I’ve made over the last 4 months because not only did I finish it this time with ease, I felt like I could probably do it again straight after.
Training to walk Kokoda has opened up my life in many ways, one in particular that I’m thrilled about is getting to explore nature with friends and family. As a kid, I loved being in nature and was in Scouts. From the age of 13, up until I started training for Kokoda, I didn’t explore the many national parks that surround Sydney because walking was so painful.
Finishing the goal of walking Kokoda will be incredible but the process that I’ve gone through to get there, the lessons that I’ve learned and the benefits are even better.