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The Magic of Nature and the Human Connection

July 10, 2015 by  
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I’ve been hiking up Millcreek Canyon ever since it turned so very hot here in Salt Lake City. It’s been 100 plus degrees on many days.  And let me tell you, the Millcreek Canyon hike is something to behold and as a big plus the trail I take has a wonderful canopy of trees blocking the sun for probably 80% of the hike. There is something magical about the great outdoors and for me it’s even more magical in the mountains or on the beach.  I don’t know what it is but I’m sure scientist have an explanation for what nature does to our brains that lifts and jump starts our spirits to a much higher level.  If you don’t believe me, the next time you are a bit down in the dumps, just take a walk outside, preferably in the mountains, on the beach, or at least out in the country side, and see if you don’t find your mood changed.

For me there is an extra boost to my mind, mood and spirit when I hike trails where others are hiking.  As I’ve talked about before, I love to drop $2 dollar bills on the trail when I see a father or mother hiking with small children–ideally in that 6 to 10 age range.  If you give a 3 year old a $2 dollar bill they don’t know what it is and usually drop it in a short time. They need to be old enough to understand what they’ve found.

My normal routine is to say to the parents as they are approaching, “Hey, have you taught your kids to pick up paper or litter when they see it on the ground?” and then I drop the money and keep walking and I hear the kids shouting out in delight and almost always the kids also scream out a big “Thank you!” Wow. Does that ever warm my heart! The kids love it but I think I love it more and get more out of it than they do.

I also love to meet people when I am out on my usual 2 or 3 hour hikes and that also lifts my spirits.  I have some standard lines that I use over and over because they usually work to start a short conversation or a quick exchange of pleasantries.  For instance, as I am approaching couples, whether young or old, with the guy in front and the gal behind, I say to the guy as I pass, “Hey, don’t look now but there is a beautiful lady following you.” That always brings big smiles and an exchange of upbeat comments.  They love it and so do I.

With these few words and small gestures, spirits are lifted. Plus it sometimes leads both parties to stop and have a short upbeat chat.  Yesterday I used one of my other standard lines when I’m on a particularly steep part of the hike and passing people.  I simply ask “Hey, how much further to the 7-11?” It usually brings a big laugh but yesterday it also lead to a conversation and a big coincidence.

After saying this to two ladies who laughed at my comment, I noted the younger woman had a French accent so I asked her where she was from. After telling me she lived a couple hundred kilometers north of Paris, I told her we love Paris and France and have a very, very good friend from Normandy by the name of Franchoise and she is married to the skiing legend Stein Eriksen. When I mentioned this, the older lady said “Hey, I know who you are, Mark Haroldsen, the author. And I know Franchoise. Her son plays tennis with my son.” So again that brief encounter lifted our spirits with a nice conversation and a fun coincidence and we all walked away with smiles on our faces.

The bottom line here is that I think all of us should get out in nature more and go out of our way to meet other human beings.  It’s a win-win and as I preach this to you, believe me, I am preaching it to myself to do more of that!

 

 

 

No One’s Life is Perfect

July 4, 2014 by  
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I ran into a friend a few days ago and greeted him with the old familiar “Hey, how’s it going?”  He gave the usual response of “I’m doing fine”, but he added two words to the beginning of his greeting: “I guess …”!  Wow. That totally changed the meaning of his greeting and his facial expression matched those two added words. Obviously, he wasn’t doing “fine”. So I dug a little deeper and found out he really was struggling with some big issues.

In today’s world of fast and quickly expanding social media we are given the impression that people out there have near perfect lives.  I mean take a look at virtually anyone’s Facebook and you’ll see all these fun pictures and comments. Much of what we see is the good stuff, and of course there is really nothing wrong with that, but it sure can make a lot of people feel and believe that their own lives, filled with challenges, big ups and downs, and problems are really “messed up”, causing self-pity, depression and, in the worst cases, even suicide.

The fact is, nobody’s life is perfect or even close, but when you’re looking from the outside you might be tricked into thinking that other people are doing tons better than you. If you take time to look and probe on a deeper level you will see that the surface view can be very misleading since most of us don’t announce or display our problems but prefer to show and advertise our successes.

So, if you really want to know the truth and gain insight into a person’s real and complete life,you need to dig deeper.  One easy way to do this is by simply asking the right questions.  For example, pick a friend or relative that seems to be doing well as you see on their Facebook postings or hear them talk about their world travel, huge income or impressive home and lifestyle, and ask questions like these:

1.  What are the biggest challenges you are having in life right now?

2.  In the past, what do you think has been the worst or hardest part of your life?

3.  Who or what makes you sad?

4.  Do you ever get down or depressed? (If they say yes, ask how often and what causes it.)

5.  What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you?

6.  Do you think much about your own mortality?

7.  What in your life scares you the most?

8.  Have you experienced any great tragedy in your life? If so, what happened and when?

9.  Do you worry and think about tragedy striking you in the future?

If you take a little time, you certainly can add your own probing questions to this list.

I’m pretty sure if you question those who you think have “the perfect life” you will find, as I have, that no matter how rich and famous or perfect their lives look from the outside, they too have their problems and challenges and many times much larger problems that you would have ever guessed.

You might ask at this point, “Why go through all of this questioning?”

I personally believe it’s a very good thing to do for at least 2 reasons.  First, it can help you see and understand yourself better and remove any self-pity or feelings of “not as good as other people”. It can even lift you out of a state of depression, so you come up with the thought of “Hey I’m not doing so badly after all.” Because of this, you may see yourself in a much different light and find you have higher self-esteem”.

Second, and most importantly, knowing the challenges and problems of your relatives and friends can put you in the perfect position to step up and help them overcome some of their problems, challenges and obstacles.  This makes it a real Win-Win. And all for just asking a few questions!