When you’re tired at 12,000 feet and you’re running low on water, the sound of a creek can create overwhelming feelings of gratitude. We’ve all been there. When we remove the conveniences of modern life, like energy, plumbing and insulated homes, the most basic necessities go from being afterthoughts to things of great importance, In this, and several other ways, the mountains can actually teach us gratitude beyond the hills, helping us better appreciate the little things in daily life. Here’s how the mountains teach us gratitude, in my experience.
Gratitude Makes us Healthy & Happy
Why does gratitude in the first place? Numerous studies and experiments demonstrate that gratitude helps us in many ways. Specifically, gratitude supports our health, both physical and psychological. It promotes better relationship-building, and leaves us happier in our daily lives. It’s even been found to help deal with issues like depression, anxiety and other problems. Learning to practice gratitude for the good things we have will help improve your quality of life no matter your situation. So how do mountains teach us gratitude?
Gratitude is Relative. Mountains Make it Clear
Gratitude is not fixed – it’s relative to your environment. When we drive to and from work every day, we lose sight of just how lucky we are to have such transportation. When we remove modern conveniences like cars, the relative nature of gratitude becomes clear: If forced to walk to work for a week, you might drop to your knees in thanks upon receiving a bicycle. This is the primary way mountaineering teaches gratitude.
When we spend time in the mountains, we willingly set aside comfort and take on extra risk – we essentially force ourselves to recognize the enormous gap between our daily lives, and what we experience in the harshness of mountain nature. We realize that gratitude is relative to what we know and expect. Hiking through snow, climbing steep rocky faces, enduring rain and wind, helps us set more gracious expectations for daily life. It helps us remember how lucky we are every day, when reminded of how miserable life can be when it comes to type 2 fun.
Keeping the Magic Alive at Home
The key to making gratitude stick is working to keep it going once home. For one or two days, most of us naturally feel the gratitude from the safety and comfort of home, relative to the mountains. The key is keeping it going beyond that for the long-run (unless you can afford to hike every 3 days). Take time in your day to think back to recent hikes, not just the good, but also the bad. When you get in bed at night, take a few seconds to remember your last winter overnight, in your under-rated sleeping bag. Making connections in our daily life, to the challenges we face in the mountains, keeps us grounded, and helps us remember and recognize that gratitude is relative. Eventually, your work will become second-nature, and you’ll live a happier, healthier life.
Gratitude for the Mountains Themselves
Mountains teach us gratitude in other ways too. Perhaps most of all, it teaches us to be thankful for the opportunity and privilege to live and play in the mountains themselves. For better or for worse, the mountains are and always have been largely a place of privilege. Most mountaineers are well-off enough to afford the time, training, gear, social capital, transportation, and other requirements for mountain adventure. When we climb, we reflect on how lucky we are to experience the wonders of an alpine view. This gratitude also can help us live better lives, providing something to reflect on in daily life when things appear troubling. A picture of a treasured mountain adventure on your desk can go a long way to lift you up when you need it most.
Go Climb a Mountain, and Return Home Thankful
Mountains teach us gratitude, in multiple ways. That gratitude in turn leaves us happier and healthier in our daily lives – just one more reason to climb a mountain! The key to living with gratitude in the long run is reflecting and remembering that gratitude is relative, exemplified by our experiences in the harsh mountain environment. So go, climb a mountain, and return home thankful! You’ll be glad you did – trust us!
About the Author: Alex Derr
Alex Derr is a mountaineer and blogger based in Denver Colorado. He is working to climb Colorado’s highest 100 peaks, and the 20 tallest peaks in California. He created The Next Summit to share advice, stories, history & reflections from the Colorado Rockies & Sierra Nevada. When not climbing, he is managing the Communications strategy at Visible Network Labs.