Tag Archives: hiking

Late Introduction

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Hello there, and welcome to my blog (even though I’m a little late on this haha)!  I’m so glad you’ve decided to join me on my journey to finding happiness, and becoming physically and mentally healthier!  Let me tell you a little about myself.

I grew up in a small town in middle Tennessee, I have two sisters, and I’m the glorious middle child!  My parents are both teachers and I graduated from high school in 2008.  I’m a gay Buddhist who loves to learn, and I currently work as a 911 Operator/Emergency dispatcher for two counties.  I attended college for a few years at the University of Memphis before moving back home and changing my major from vocal music performance to psychology.  I now attend part time online/night classes at Motlow State.

I’ve always struggled with depression, but it wasn’t until June 16, 2012 (after a very serious bout of depression and substance abuse) that I finally decided I needed professional help.  I checked myself into a rehab facility at Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital for ten days and came out a new person!  Since then I have turned my life around tremendously!  For the first time in a VERY long time I actually enjoy waking up every day, and even wake up early to take in as many minutes as possible during the day.  I cannot tell you how happy I am to be alive and free of all substance that used to bog me down.  I’ve learned to face my problems, learn from them, and help teach others not to make the same mistakes.  I’ve since lost 135lbs, been promoted at work, saved SOOOO much more money, and improved so much compared to the person I was.  Plus I smile…a lot! 🙂

I decided to start a blog not only as a way to journal my thoughts and feelings, but to also help others who may be suffering.  I’ve learned to focus on the good things in life rather than the bad things, but I don’t ignore them completely.  I wake up every day, make my bed, and typically start my day with some yoga, a light breakfast, and some coffee.  I spend this time thinking of things that make me happy, and I also try to center my mind for the day to make sure I get started off on the right foot. My day may consist of many things: working, hiking, camping, swimming, kayaking, walking, dancing, singing, cleaning, etc. but I always do them the best I can, and I make sure I enjoy every minute.  You must be an active participant in your own recovery.  Let me repeat, you MUST BE AN ACTIVE PARTICIPANT IN YOUR OWN RECOVERY AND MENTAL HEALTH.  You cannot just sit by and expect to get better.  Yes, you may be on medication (as I am; a basic depression pill), but you still have to play a lead role in getting better.  Medication can only do so much, and it’s not a fix.  There are still days when I struggle, but those days just remind me that there is still work that needs to be done.

Now that all that is out of the way, I look forward to having you take this journey with me!  Please, feel free to ask questions, leave comments, and share my blog entries.  I want to help others so if you feel that someone you know could benefit from a post or something I’ve said, I won’t mind a bit for you to share it with them.  We are all brothers and sisters of the same species in this amazing universe that we live in!  I’m here for you! 🙂

Yoga in the Woods

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There are few things that I enjoy more than being in the woods. Out in nature, the wind on my face, the smell of plants filling my lungs, the feel and sound of limbs and leaves crunching under my feet. It gives me such peace and truly makes me feel one with the universe. I feel such happiness and even writing about it now slows my heart rate and reminds me to take a deep breath. However, I’ve recently discovered something even better than just walking in the woods…yoga in the woods. I’ve never really been a big yoga person, but lately I’ve been doing much more of it.

About two months ago I injured myself pretty badly while working out so I was forced to cease almost all physical activity for almost four weeks. I started physical therapy at that point and the first thing they had me do was stretch. It hurt, a lot, but I knew I had to do it in order to wake up the muscles that I had not been using and begin the healing process. During this course of bodily torture I realized that the stretching exercises (most of which were your basic, and even some complex, yoga moves) actually calmed my nerves, made me less anxious, relieved pain, steadied my breathing, chased away some of the depression I had been feeling, and helped to elevate my over all attitude. For this reason I began making my appointments for the morning time because it always seemed to make the rest of my day go much smoother after I had completed my physical therapy. As my physical therapy continued I started to incorporate my stretches into my morning routine at home. I’m not really sure why, as I don’t know the science behind it, and it may be mostly a mind trick, but it has really made a difference. During this process I had noticed that my depression was slowly creeping back in and I knew I had to do something. I was sitting a home last week, and as I’ve finally gotten to the point that I can walk without too much of a limp, and I can put my full weight on my foot and back, I decided to go for a hike. As I slowly and carefully walked through the woods my mind began to slip back into that comfortable and welcome place of peace and stillness. I stopped, put down my backpack, closed my eyes, and breathed. Deeply. It was incredible. Being back in the place I love after almost two months of being confined to the house and my work, truly brightened my day and calmed my entire body. I started to stretch, not even realizing I was doing it, and before I knew it I was doing yoga. Right there in the woods. I took off my shoes and my bare feet gently meshed with the ground and leaves. My muscles welcomed the stretches and my lungs were grateful for the fresh air.  I think I did this for about 30 minutes, although I had honestly lost track of time probably five minutes in so I’m not really sure. When I finished my hike and made it back to the house my mind was in a state that it had not been in a long time…complete ecstasy. I was somewhat emotional, happy, energetic, peaceful, calm, and there was not a single thing that could’ve ruined my day. 

I’ve only done this twice so far, but I will definitely continue. It just goes to show that happiness can be found in the most basic of places. I didn’t spend a single dollar, I didn’t travel to some foreign country. I was simply there, about a mile from my home, in the woods with my bare feet on the ground. That is where I found happiness. That is where I began to breathe again.

Doing Nothing

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I love doing nothing and I love to hike.  I try my best to do it on a regular basis because it’s one of those things that literally rejuvenates my soul.  There’s something about getting out in nature and just being with the beautiful world around you to make you feel connected to the earth.  I often joke when people ask what I enjoy doing on my days off from work because my reply is sometimes, “Absolutely nothing.”  It’s not that I have a boring life, nor am I lazy, but I generally find it refreshing to do nothing…and to do it as much as possible.

My take on doing nothing means to stop what you generally do and just enjoy the emptiness that surrounds you.  My place to do that is in the woods.  The morning of my hike I wake up, enjoy a cup of coffee, load my supplies in my Subaru and take off.  If the weather is nice then I roll down the windows and blast some music.  When I arrive at my destination I unload my pack and make my way to the trail.  This is the point where I will pause at the head of the trail, turn my cell phone on airplane mode (because I still use my camera so I don’t turn my phone off) and take a deep breath.  It’s quiet.  The birds are chirping, the breeze is blowing in my face, the sun is warm on my skin and I stand there doing absolutely nothing.  I live for this moment.  I bask in it.  I listen.  I breathe.  I live.

During my hike I allow my eyes to wander, I allow my ears to explore and I permit every smell (the good and the bad) to invade my nostrils and remind me of what nature has to offer.  My body is operating on a basic level doing nothing, but the few things it takes to survive.  I’m breathing, walking, looking, smelling and feeling.  That’s pretty much it.  There is no cell phone to distract me, no TV to cloud my brain and eyes with countless pointless advertisements for things I don’t need and there is nothing to keep me from enjoying every single second.  Generally I dislike the rain, but hiking is the rain makes me feel so alive.  The water running down my face, being exposed to every drop.  It’s breathtaking.

I challenge you to do nothing.  Literally, do nothing at some point this week.  Just sit back, relax and enjoy the quiet and emptiness around you.  You’ll be amazed at how happy doing nothing can make you!

Crazy Dancing

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There are many things I do on a regular basis if I’m feeling down.  Random dancing is one of those things.  And by random I mean crank the music up and just go to town!  I know I’m doing it correctly if I start laughing at myself.  I spin, I jump, I throw in some dance moves that even Michael Jackson wouldn’t attempt and I just have fun.  Plus, it ends up being a nice little workout.

Some people would ask why I do this.  It’s silly, yes, but it makes me happy.  For just a moment I’m able to have fun and be a kid again.  I am able to laugh and forget that I have bills to pay, deadlines coming up and tests to study for.  It’s the small things, like random dancing, that remind me that it’s okay to act crazy and to have fun while doing it.  As adults we spend our lives doing grownup stuff and it often wears us down.  When I go hiking, traveling, dancing, etc. I am able to get away from all of that.  Those things rebuild by spirit and mend my soul.

I work as a 911 Operator for two different counties.  Full time day shift at one and part-time night shift at the other so there are some weeks when I am just exhausted.  I come home after a long, stressful 12 hour shift and all I want to do is sleep, however, I still make time for crazy dancing and other things that bring me happiness.  People who suffer from depression often get into the rut of feeling down, lonely or tired so we forget about the things that once made us happy.  All this does is start the downward spiral that eventually ends with us curled into a fetal position under our covers crying like a baby for no apparent reason.  I’ve said it before and will say it again, in order to defeat depression you must become a daily active participant in your recovery.  Yes, we may be tired at the end of the day, but a 10 minute walk isn’t going to hurt.

I’d like to challenge everyone who reads this (whether or not you suffer from depression) to take at least two days this week and do something you enjoy.  I don’t care if it’s petting your dog on the couch or going white water rafting.  Do something that brings you joy and makes you smile.  And if you can’t think of anything, do some crazy dancing!  You’ll be amazed at how it might just raise your spirits 😉

My Search for Happiness

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How does one define happiness?  Is it something we can see, smell, hear, touch, give away, steal, find or maybe even create?  Why is it that happiness for one person is not the same happiness for someone else?  Is true happiness only available in the form of a pill or can real happiness be found within ourselves?  Buddhist monks, for centuries, have probably been some of the happiest people in the world, yet they have remarkable little material belongings.  They don’t need “things” to bring about happiness, so how do they do it?

I have suffered from depression for years which eventually led me down a scary and rocky path of drug addiction, unsafe sex, alcoholism and a very well needed stay in a psychiatric hospital and rehab facility.  Since then I have focused on eastern medicine, and hopefully finding happiness without using a pill at some point.  Going on hikes, traveling, watching the sunset, walking barefoot through dew-covered grass early in the morning, dancing in the rain, cooking, kayaking, skinny dipping, learning to laugh, playing with puppies…you know, all that stuff that is supposed to make people happy.  Those are the things that I focus on now.  Even now, there are still days when I have to pry myself out of the bed, but I know that it’s the healthiest thing for me to do.  I refuse to allow even one day to pass without allowing myself to fully enjoy every moment.  Yes, there will be bad days, but I know that a storm doesn’t last forever!  The thing with battling depression is that you must be an active participant in your recovery.  You must pursue happiness and some days you have to use every bit of strength  you have to make yourself do at least one thing to make you happy.

It’s not an easy journey, but so far it’s been a fun one!  Since June 16th 2012 I have overcome by addiction to prescription medication, beat the urge to abuse alcohol, lost 135lbs and have now become a much healthier person…physically, mentally and spiritually!  I want to prove to people that it’s possible to be truly happy in an age when most people are incredibly miserable.

I invite you to take this journey with me!  I won’t post every day and there will be times when I may even bore you to death,  but I promise to share my story and to share my expeditions with anyone who will listen!  I’ve started blogs before in the past and told myself I would post at least three times a week, yet I always fail to do so then I just give up all together.  This time will be different, for I won’t actually set a goal, but will simply write when I can.

So here I go on my search for happiness…join me?? 🙂