Many people will head outdoors to start 2018 on the right foot and connect to nature on January 1st as part of the First Day Hike, a nationwide initiative led by America’s State Parks.

We’ve all heard that being outside is good for you, but research has found the perfect nature potion for you to get the maximum health benefits from a walk in nature: “The sounds of chirping birds, the visuals of trees and leaves, and the sound of streams or rivers.”(1) Find a hike that has that combination and you’re sure to start the year off with a clear mind.

Virginia is home to some great State Parks, three of which are on the James River! Consider a visit to James River State Park, Powhatan State Park, or Chippokes Plantation State Park to enjoy a hike along the James. If you want to keep it local, find a park in your own community and spend some time with your local stream or river. Maybe it’ll be the start of a new relationship that will continue through the year!

“Reaching the water is all part of the experience. Make it mindful. Take a moment to enjoy the transition.” – Tessa Wardley

Instead of rushing through the trail, make it a mindful hike by following some of these suggestions.

Arrive: As you get to the trail head, stop. Take a few breaths to become present and really arrive.

Silence: If you’re with a group, start the hike in silence for the first 15 minutes. It can be a great experience to simply enjoy being in nature with friends and family, with no pressure to fill the space with words.

Notice: As you head down the trail, remember to keep your eyes open and give yourself permission to take your time. If you see an interesting pattern on the path, beautiful tree branches against the sky, or a beetle walking along, stop and really see it.

Sit: When you come across a spot with a view of the creek or river along your hike, take a seat. Listen to the sounds of the water, watch the glistening of sunshine on the top of the water, and breathe in the fresh air. Visualize the flowing water bringing in new life for 2018 and carrying your old emotional baggage downstream to be cleansed and washed away.

Depart: Before leaving the trail, find some way to offer gratitude to that space. Maybe it’s a silent “Thank You”, or picking up a few pieces of trash on your way out.

And lastly, share! If you found a good spot to hike along your local stream, share a photo with us!