Tips & Advice

Get Tips and Advice from the guides at Mountain Trek. Nutrition, Hiking, Sleep, Detox and Fitness are just some of the topics we cover.

Q&A: What are the best hiking shoes and hiking poles?

Hiking-in-British-Columbia

Q: What are the best hiking shoes and hiking poles?

A: Hiking Footwear is all about function and fit. Since we all have wildly different feet, there is no one best brand, but there are ideal shoe types for what we aim to get into. If you are hiking on smooth trail surfaces (gravel) and have reasonably strong ankles, a very light “trail-runner” would be fine. As their name suggest, trail-runners are a hybrid between street running shoe and hiking boots. They offer great traction and are lightweight, but aren’t as stable as a hiking boot. Here are some trail-runners we recommend. If your trails are more technical and have loose rock, roots, rock steps, are quite narrow, and your ankles are prone to rolling, an over the ankle light to medium-weight hiking boot will best serve your needs. If you are planning a multi-day backpacking excursion on the Appalachian or Pacific Crest trails, a well broken-in, heavier-duty, stiffer over-the-ankle hiking boot will over the traction and support you need for a long journey.

Once you have determined your function needs, we suggest you try on as many different brands of that style of footwear as possible (with your moisture-wicking wool hiking socks, of course—we highly recommend Darn Tough). Every brand uses a different size and shaped sole and footbed, and since each of us has differently shaped feet and toes, it’s paramount that you try your shoes on to find the right fit. A poorly fit boot and low quality sock is a guaranteed recipe for blisters. Here are the critical things to look for when trying on your shoes:
  1. Ensure the fit is snug when laced. You want to lace your boots firm, but not tight—somewhere around an 7 or 8 out of 10 on the pressure scale. Ideally the shoe will have even pressure across your entire foot once laced and not have “hot spots”, or places where your boot will rub excessively when hiking, causing a blister.
  2. The right size will need to find a good middle-ground. It needs to have a bit of room in front of your toes so they don’t hit against the shoe/boot when going downhill, but not so roomy that the heel lifts when walking uphill. Read our full guide on how to properly select a hiking shoe.

Most larger retailers (MEC, REI) will have fake rock ramps for you to demo your fit on. Make sure you use this, so you can see how the boot performs on all angles. After choosing the best fitting shoe, ensure that you can take them home to wear around the house for a couple of days to ensure the fit is optimal (and still return them if not).

Trekking poles are a fantastic addition to your hiking gear arsenal. They distribute workload and force, allowing you to hike farther and faster while providing additional stability and protecting your joints. They propel you forward on flat and uphill terrain, and become a brake, or shock absorber on downhills, unloading our knees from upper body weight. 30% of your effort should be distributed to your arms when using trekking poles, so they provide a full-body workout while hiking.

Choosing a hiking pole is less personal than choosing hiking shoes or boot. When choosing your poles, follow these tips:

  1. Ensure that when they are extended, your arm can be bent at 90 degrees while holding the handle.
  2. Look for poles that have built-in shock-absorbing springs or cushion. This addition will keep the jarring out of your shoulders, elbows, and wrists when the poles make contact with the ground and is well worth the small cost increase.
  3. Carbon poles are nice, but not necessary. While these poles save weight, which is great if you are doing a multi-day backpacking trip, their increased price tag isn’t usually worth.
  4. Choose a cork grip if available. Cork is a great, and natural, material for hiking poles that offers both good grip, breathability, and traction when wet.
  5. If you want the full-body workout when you go for your evening walk around the neighborhood, choose a set that comes with rubber tips that you can put on for urban fitness hiking.
We hope these tips help you find the right footwear and poles for your hiking needs. Nordic trekking, which is what hiking with poles is called, just like it’s winter counterpart, Nordic Skiing (Cross-Country skiing to most of us), is one of the best full-body, cardiovascular endurance exercises out there. Couple these physical benefits with the mental benefits of nature immersion, and it is arguably the most overall healthy exercise option possible. Proper footwear and trekking poles will only heighten your experience.

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: How do I make or break a habit?

image of dice spelling old habits

Q: How can I use this period of isolation and working from home, to make or break some healthy habits?

A: This time of restricted travel and socializing is an ideal time to add or delete 1-2 actions or behaviors that we want to change. Creating or breaking a habit requires consistency and repetition, but this isn’t usually easy with our normal hectic lives. With this mandated break, we have the benefit of consistency right now—no racing to the airport for a work trip for the next two days, no commute to work, and no random party or gathering we feel obligated to attend. To fully capitalize on our newfound consistency, there are a few other things we can do to dramatically increase our chances of successfully forming a new habit or breaking an old one.

First, focus your attention on a maximum of two specific actions that you could commit to doing on a daily basis for the next 4 weeks. Before COVID, we needed 3-6 months to solidify an action into a habit because our work life was in constant flux and flow. By finally having some consistency in our life, we can significantly shorten the time needed to make or break a habit.

Next, ensure you could continue your specific actions into your lifestyle once the travel and work restrictions are lifted.

Third, call it a 30-day ‘experiment’, to take the pressure of perfectionism off.

Fourth, set a 2-week reminder in case you fall off the wagon.

Fifth, take a tip from Ultralearning, by Scott H Young, and remove an unwanted habit by understanding and replacing the needs that it services. For example, if eating Ben & Jerry’s while watching Netflix gives you a sense of reward and relaxation after a productive day of work, you could replace those needs with some restorative yoga and a candlelit Epsom salt bath—both great ways to reward yourself and relax. Another one of his suggestions that we support at Mountain Trek, would be to remove the temptation all together in the first place, e.g. just remove the Cherry Garcia from your freezer in the first place.

I suggest diving deeper into proper habit formation by reading our article: Building Healthy Habits in 6 Easy Steps


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: How do I control my snacking?

Young man taking potato chip out of glass bowl while sitting on sofa in front of laptop on table and having snack

Q: Why do I crave snacking so much now that I’m working from home because of coronavirus and how can I stop it?

A: Firstly, Mountain Trek supports snacking! In fact, in our approach to mindful Balanced Health, we don’t judge food or eating to be “good” or “bad”. It’s all about what, how much, and when that makes what we choose to eat either positive and healthy, or derailing. If you’ve ever been to Mountain Trek, you have heard our nutritionist, Jenn, say to eat a mix of foods every 3-4 hrs up until dinner in order to provide a consistent blood sugar (energy requirements) throughout the day. Varying blood sugar is what gets us in trouble with caffeine (hello 2 pm crash) and snacking. This means we actually need to snack in order to optimize our mental and physical health, and vitality! But we need to ensure we’re eating the right amount of the right thing at the right time. Ideally, each meal or snack will have a little protein with a variety of colorful items from the plant kingdom. As stated above, we should be eating snacks 3-4 hours after breakfast and then again after lunch. Timing our snacks will balance our energy levels and prevent over-snacking. If we can take the time to organize our snacks on the weekend, we can make healthy and timely grazing even easier. Pre-cut and containerized veggies and protein dips and a variety of fruit choices with nuts, seeds, cheese, nut butters, hard-boiled eggs are all great, healthy snack options.

As for your “craving”, the reason you find tasty, but unhealthy snacks, on your mind is that we all get attracted to the “Carb-Fat-Salt Trifecta”. There is a biological wiring from our tongue’s taste buds to the neurotransmitter release of our “feel-good” hormones, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. These mood enhancers bathe our brain with a positive and uplifting break from the vigilant and diligent state that we typically experience throughout the day, when we’re under the influence of our stress hormone cortisol. So eating potato chips, which hit the trifecta on the head, makes us happier, chemically at least. Emotional eating is real! When we feel blue (disconnected, compressed, inundated, lonely, bored, exhausted, uncertain, etc), we are emotionally stressed. It is normal to unconsciously reach for a little something something to pick our mood up and feel satisfied. But that short term pleasure turns to long term pain.

Setting ourselves up with actions that we can habituate while we have the kitchen so close to work can pay dividends when we go back to the office or begin traveling again. Prepare snacks and set timers to remind yourself to step away from the screen to refuel. Make your snacks nutritional, but also pleasurable; pre-cut and containerize veggies and protein dips (like above), a variety of fruit choices with nuts, seeds, cheese, nut butters, and hard-boiled eggs are all great, healthy snack options


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

What is Intermittent Fasting and How to Do it Right

 

looking at wrist watch in nature

At Mountain Trek, we hear a lot of guests say they’re “intermittent fasting.” To some, this means skipping breakfast; to others, this means eating just dinner. Which is right? Which is wrong? Mountain Trek also practices intermittent fasting (IF), and has developed a specific method over the past 20 years proven to help guests ignite their metabolism. Here, our Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Jenn Keirstead, gives us the scoop on Mountain Trek’s approach to IF:

Jennifer-Keirstead-Nutritionist

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent Fasting has become the latest health fad that allegedly assists with weight loss. It has even ranked as the “trendiest” weight loss search of 2019. The dietary term is used to describe the cycling between periods of fasting and eating.

Experts say: it’s not all hype. In fact, many agree that the diet can be helpful in boosting longevity, maintaining blood sugar levels, and reaching a healthy weight.

Not surprisingly, given the popularity, several different types or methods of IF have been established. Explained below, are a few of the most popular methods:

Time-restricted eating: Fast for 16+ hours each day

This method involves fasting every day 16+ hours and restricting your daily “eating window” to 8 hours. For example, if you finish your last meal at 8 p.m. and don’t eat until noon the next day, you’re technically fasting for 16 hours.

The 5:2 diet: Fast for 2 days per week

For one to two nonconsecutive days per week, you consume just water plus 500 calories, (200 of which are protein), either in one meal or spread out over the day. The other five or six days a week, you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want.

Alternate-day fasting: Fast every other day

For the first 24 hours, you consume just water plus 500 calories, (200 of which are protein), either in one meal or spread out over the day. For the second 24 hours, you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want. Repeat the cycle every two days.

After reading about a trend, I always like to ask myself: is this diet restrictive in anyway, and is it sustainable long term? These are always good points to ponder before you find yourself in yet another diet + binge cycle.

Also, a word of caution from Dr. Frank Hu, chair of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. Hu explains: “It’s human nature for people to want to reward themselves after doing very hard work, such as exercise or fasting for a long period of time; so there is a danger of indulging in unhealthy dietary habits on non-fasting days. In addition, there’s a strong biological push to overeat following fasting periods. Your appetite hormones and hunger center in your brain go into overdrive when you are deprived of food. He also comments, “Part of the fascination with IF arises from research with animals showing that fasting may reduce cancer risk and slow aging. One hypothesis is that fasting can activate cellular mechanisms that help boost immune function and reduce inflammation associated with chronic disease.”

How to do Intermittent Fasting correctly

Here at Mountain Trek, we too have our opinions about the structured fasting and eating cycles. Program Director, Kirkland Shave, describes our version as a, “12 on, 12 off.” He explains how, “The Mountain Trek program, where we take a 12-hour break without food (glucose) at night, aids in deeper sleep, less calorie storage, less LDL cholesterol production, and lowering the potential for Insulin Resistance (precursor to type 2 diabetes).” We also believe that fasting is beneficial in supporting the anti-inflammatory response of cellular autophagy (self-eating). According to Priya Khorana, PhD, in nutrition education from Columbia University, this is the body’s way of, “Cleaning out damaged cells, in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells.” Autophagy occurs when sleeping—another reason to fast at night.

The idea of eating during the day makes sense to us. This is because you’re eating when your body and brain are most active. This way you consume your calories when your body needs them the most. You are literally fueling your metabolic engine as it needs energy, rather than operating on a full tank all the time. When done correctly, with proper portions and timing, this means your engine will be running as clean and efficient as possible. No build up, no excess.

We support a daily 12-hour fast, for our reasons above—we’ve just restructured the guidelines, to encourage a more healthful, sustainable, and practical approach.

Break your fast first thing in the morning

Let’s begin by “breaking the fast.” Once you’re up and ready to roll, consider breaking your fast with food. Real food first please, not coffee! Ideally, this happens within 30 minutes of rising.

There are options here. If you’re the exercise-before-work type, you can grab a quick snack consisting of a fruit/veggie, with a protein. Some examples include: apple + seeds, carrots + nut butter, or a 5 oz smoothie made from frozen berries, spinach, banana + hemp hearts. This amount of nutrition is enough to boost your anabolic metabolism by supporting the steroids that stimulate protein synthesis, muscle growth, and insulin production.

You can also break your fast with actual breakfast. Fantastic examples include: a veggie omelette with sprouted, whole grain bread, or a bowl of oatmeal with berries and seeds.

Eat every 3-4 hours for 12 hours

We suggest that you continue on throughout your day with both lunch and dinner, including 1 snack in between each meal. This means you’re eating every 3 – 4 hours during the waking hours, which will continue to support blood sugar levels, leaving you more satiated and energized.
If you intend to adhere to the 12 hour fasting window, dinner is required to be an earlier meal. This may take the most planning. To enjoy dinner at a more reasonable hour, you may want to try batch cooking on the weekends, a crock-pot meal, or one of the many convenient, health-supporting Apps, in which you can pre-order food right to your door. Do whatever it takes to make having an earlier dinner easier!

Fast for 12 hours overnight

That brings you to your “12 hour nighttime break without food.” This might feel challenging at first, as many of us are accustomed to late-night eating and snacking. Many people find themselves mindlessly eating late at night, even when they aren’t hungry.

Something to consider is that nighttime eating may be the result of an overly restricted daytime food intake, leading to ravenous hunger at night. You may find that more consistent eating throughout the day helps curb the out-of-control feeling around food in the evening—ideally you will leave at least 3-4 hours to digest before going to sleep. Speaking of sleep you may notice your sleep improve, as you’ll get to truly rest, instead of digest. Learn more about our sleep program.

Another bonus of IF and eating dinner earlier: after 12 hours food-free, you’re actually hungry when you wake up! This helps make the breaking-the-fast upon rising a breeze.

To learn more about proper nutrition and living a healthy, balanced life, read more of our articles or join us for a week long health-immersion at our retreat. More below.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

How to prevent coronavirus when traveling

Woman traveller looking at plane

With the spread of the coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19, travel can be a bit scary right now. Many people are smartly reconsidering their plans to highly infected areas like China, South Korea, Iran, Italy, Spain and France but does this mean you should cancel your trip to other countries? We have assessed the situation, getting numerous opinions from doctors and virologists and while the fear of catching the virus when traveling to your destination is justified—afterall, the coronavirus is on a path to becoming a pandemic and should be taken very seriously—we feel that you can still travel safely and prevent being infected with coronavirus, if you follow our tips.

What is coronavirus and how do I get infected?

First, let’s do our best to understand the virus.

This virus is spread in large droplets by an infected person coughing or sneezing. This virus only has cell receptors for lung cells so a healthy person needs to get these droplets into their respiratory system via the nose or mouth to get infected. These large droplets do not suspend in air, which means that the air around us is not infectious, but rather, all the surfaces where these droplets land and sit for about a week on average. You will not be infected by the air you breath unless your unprotected face is directly coughed or sneezed on. Airplanes use high-quality filters when recirculating air that catches these large droplets, so it really is the surfaces we touch and the subsequent contact with our nose and mouth that is the issue.

How to prevent coronavirus when traveling

  • Most importantly, avoid touching your nose and mouth. This is easier said than done—we touch our face on average 90x/day. Wear a mask to prevent yourself from touching your face. The mask will not prevent the virus from getting into your nose or mouth if someone sneezes or coughs on you—it is only to keep you from touching your nose or mouth.
  • Disinfect all potentially contaminated areas with alcohol based wipes (at least 60% alcohol) before use. For extra precaution, use latex or nitrile disposable gloves when disinfecting and then dispose properly. Disinfect airplane armrests, tray tables, entertainment systems, and seatbelts when taking your seat.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer after touching anything public; door handles, faucets, luggage carts, and counters.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are coughing or noticeably sick.
  • Use your hands as little as possible, giving fistbumps instead of handshakes, using only your knuckle to touch light switches and buttons, and using your hip or closed fist to open doors.
  • Carry zinc lozenges. These lozenges have been proven to be effective in blocking coronavirus (and most other viruses) from multiplying in our throat and nasopharynx. Use as directed several times each day when you begin to feel ANY “cold-like” symptoms beginning. It is best to lie down and let the lozenge dissolve in the back of your throat and nasopharynx. Cold-Eeze lozenges is one brand available, but there are other brands.

Remain vigilant when at your destination

If you follow the steps above, you should be able to travel to your destination safely. However, coronavirus prevention shouldn’t stop there—remain vigilant after arriving. Wash your hands as frequently as possible and use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available. Do your best to not touch your face, especially your nose and mouth. Sanitize the door knobs, switches, and remote controls in your hotel room, and continue to avoid close contact with people who are coughing or noticable sick.

Before traveling, ensure you have medical insurance coverage either through your current insurance provider or a 3rd party travel insurance provider. If you do become ill while traveling, seek medical care immediately.

How to stop the spread of coronavirus

To prevent the spread, please do your part. If possible, cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue and discard. Use your elbow only if you have to. The clothing on your elbow will contain the infectious virus and can be passed on for up to a week or more.

We are hosting two Adventure Treks, where we blend health, hiking, and culture into one unforgettable vacation, to New Zealand and Bhutan in March and April, and we have shared the above with our guests on how to travel safely. We hope it helps you as well.

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and overworking. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

If You Own A Smartphone, You Need A Mental Health Retreat ASAP

a woman Relaxing, sitting overlooking a lake and mountains

Mental health: this is a trending topic, and for good reason. 1 in every 13 humans worldwide suffers from anxiety, a rate that is even higher in the US (1 in every 5 people). Depression rates have increased 18.4% between 2005 and 2015. Somewhere in the world a person dies by suicide every 40 seconds, and studies show that for every death by suicide, there are approximately 20 other attempts. Seeing a therapist has become as common as going to the dentist, and a study by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) found that around 40 million adults in the United States admit to having anxiety. For perspective, that’s basically everyone living in California, or more than the entire population of Canada. These figures don’t even include those who don’t realize they are suffering from depression, stress, or anxiety, meaning the percentage is actually higher. It’s a scary time for mental health, but finally, FINALLY, society is opening a dialogue about why everyone feels as if they are falling apart, and what can be done to help. Mental health is losing its tabooness.

Smartphone Use Leads To Pessimism

Let’s get to the bottom of what’s tampering with our wellbeing. What has led us to our current mental health situation? Why is our depression and anxiety increasing? There is certainly a lot of depressing news about the coronavirus, toxic air, deforestation, global warming, garbage-filled oceans, hunger, racism, sexism, bigotry, and the list drags on, but that’s not what’s causing our depression. Genocide, natural disasters, and epidemics have always occurred. The difference today is our awareness. Thanks to our smartphones, we are constantly connected, and while having easy access to information 24/7 has its perks, such as directions to the nearest hospital in an emergency, it comes with seriously consequential downsides.

Hearing about all the bad things happening worldwide every time you open your phone creates a “sky is falling” mentality. You start to focus on disheartening events, and the weight of the world’s problems weighs on your mind ‘round the clock. The result isn’t just that you trend pessimistic, it’s that pessimism compromises your stress-management capabilities.

First, pessimists naturally dwell on stressful or negative events longer than optimists. This means your stress hormone—cortisol—levels are elevated for longer. Over-exposure to cortisol has been linked to anxiety, depression, metabolic issues, heart disease, poor sleep and weight gain, as well as memory and concentration impairment.

Second, optimistic people have been proven to be more active, eat more healthfully, and they don’t typically turn to excessive alcohol or drug use to get their kicks.

What this doesn’t mean is that you should be like an ostrich, burying your head in the sand, believing unseen danger is no danger at all; rather, it’s important to learn healthy ways to cope with life’s stressors.

The positive thinking that usually comes with optimism is a key part of effective stress management.Mayo Clinic

Social Media Increases Our Anxiety

Beyond the exhausting stream of negative news, social media is proving to be a menacing opponent to our mental health. It’s the perfect landscape for our insecurities and self-criticism to proliferate. Whenever we log into social media we see “perfect” people who make us doubt our self-worth. I need to be as skinny, or as muscular; I need to make more money; I need to find a way to afford expensive, trendy clothes; my job isn’t good enough; I’m not as adventurous; I need to travel more; I need to experience more; I need to be more.

Incessantly comparing ourselves to a seemingly fabricated reality quickly takes a toll on our wellbeing. We spend more time worrying about what we are not, rather than becoming who we should be, and our anxiety spikes.

Bottom line, the depressing news we receive daily combined with our need to succeed and the constant comparison game we play on social media is a recipe for anxiety. Phones keep us always “on,” prohibiting us from truly breaking away as we constantly search for the instant gratification technology brings, instead of slowing down and relaxing. We are attached to our phones and technology instead of to ourselves, others, and our surroundings, and that allows physical and mental toxicity to thrive.

We Need To Regain Balance In Our Mental Health

So what about today’s environment makes it so toxic? In short, we’re out of balance. Everyone is hyper-focused on career and personal success. We’ve stopped treating our “temples” (our mind, body, and spirit) respectfully, and, resultantly, it’s crumbling beneath us. Popular belief these days is that you have to be the hardest worker, dedicating every spare moment to your work in order to be successful. Taking the time to eat a wholesome meal or get a full night’s sleep somehow equates to not working hard enough. Pushing your body to breaking point has become like a badge of honor. Just read interviews with high-profile business people or celebrities–chances are they’ll talk, in a more braggy way, about their long work hours, lack of time to eat or sleep, and how they prioritize their career and image above all else.

But failing to give your mind, body, and spirit time to rest and recharge isn’t something to brag about, because what’s really happening is you’re functioning at a small percentage of your full potential. Crazy as this may sound, by allowing yourself to actually sleep and actually eat, you’ll be able to get more done. How? It all comes down to having more energy and being more alert. And that’s not all, once you stop comparing yourself to other people, you’ll be able to focus on reconnecting with yourself instead.

Forget “Likes”. Be Real.

Do you remember what it was like before social media and smartphones? Back then, mornings started out by getting ready for your day; nowadays, the first thing most of us do when the alarm sounds is check our phone and tap into social media. Essentially, we’re comparing ourselves to others–and consequently feeling inadequate–before we even have a chance to put our slippers on. Instagram’s test in removing “likes” is a step in the right direction. In a recent press conference, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri stated, “The idea is to try and depressurize Instagram, to make it less of a competition, and give people more space to focus on connecting with the people they love and the things that inspire them.”

The hope is that removing “likes” will help users stop comparing themselves to others, thus removing the stress of being “good enough” or as liked as everyone else. This comparison game is causing many people to feel as if their anxiety is spinning out of control, but few people actually stop long enough to address the cause of the decline in their mental health and wellbeing.

Put Down The Phone

The good news is it’s not hopeless. Just because the odds seem stacked against us doesn’t mean we are helpless. We can do many things on our own to help break the trance of our phones (read our recent article on how to do a digital detox). For instance:

  • Read a novel. Find a comfy chair and put your phone on silent. You might find you can go more than two paragraphs without getting distracted when it’s just you and a good story.
  • Learn a new hobby. The practice of learning something new is extremely beneficial for our brain health.
  • Take a bath. Alone, without your phone. Light candles and watch them dance instead.
  • Spend more time outdoors. Even just 20 minutes a day has been proven to help lower stress and anxiety, decrease blood pressure, lower your heart rate, and decrease your chances of developing a psychiatric disorder.
  • Exercise.
  • Do yoga.
  • Eat healthful foods. Pay attention to the flavors as they hit different parts of your tongue.
  • Connect with other humans.
  • Volunteer.
  • Pet an animals.
  • Take a vacation.
  • Visit a spa.
  • Meditate. The use of meditation apps in adults in the US has increased from 4.1% in 2012 to 14.2% in 2018. Are you part of that statistic?

…this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Don’t Do It Alone. Try A Health Retreat.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, or perhaps don’t have the time or energy to get things back on track yourself, check out a wellness retreat that incorporates mental health practices.

Mental health retreats are a great place to start—you’ll be surrounded by people who are in the same boat as you and having support from a team of professionals will ensure you stay on track.

Mental health retreats will actually help you break toxic habits and provide you with long term solutions for living a balanced life, but in case you are thinking they just aren’t for you, I’m here to tell you they are. Why? Because they aren’t one-size-fits-all.

There are many different types of mental health retreats available to suit various needs and interests. Some retreats focus on eastern healing practices, like yoga and meditation, while others focus purely on self-care (think spa: mud baths, steam rooms, massage, etc.). Some are open to everyone while others are gender-specific. Others are centered around particular activities, such as farming, clean-eating, creativity, or hiking. Many retreats emphasis connecting with nature, but, for all you indoors personalities, others don’t. And while the word “retreat” might make it sound like something only possible for wealthy people with unlimited days off from work, there are actually retreats available at any budget, for any length of time, and for any lifestyle choice.

Finding a place to unplug and reset is more attainable than it seems.

Mental Health Retreats Are About More Than Just Relaxing

While visiting any mental health or wellness retreat will do wonders for your wellbeing, starting off with one that combines many aspects of your health might be the best choice. Such retreats, like Mountain Trek, are holistic health retreats that focus on five areas of health in harmony: fitness, nutrition, stress management, sleep, and detoxification. Combining these five areas has a profound effect on your health and wellbeing, laying the groundwork to reduce social anxiety, decrease depression, and relieve stress in your life back at home.

Instead of focusing on just one area of your life, these types of holistic health retreats address each of these key areas in equal turn; after all, each one plays a role in our wellbeing and are all equally affected by the toxicity of modern society. For example, fixing your diet is a great place to start and will make you feel better, but if your stress levels are still sky-high your life will still feel toxic and unbalanced. This is why a wellness retreat like Mountain Trek is an ideal choice to get you started on your journey to a detoxified life. Every detail of your stay there is planned and prepared for you–all you have to do is focus on being present in the moment. It takes the guesswork out of trying to learn how to detox on your own.

A visit to a mental health retreat is about more than just relaxing–it’s about changing your life and giving you the tools you need so you can continue to reap the benefits long after you’ve returned home.

Prevent Burnout. Invest In Longevity.

You can only push yourself so hard before burning out. Between the go go go attitude of modern society, the negativity surrounding us worldwide, and the constant need to compare ourselves to each other, it’s no wonder our mental health is in a state of decline.

Our way of life isn’t sustainable; we need to reset our bodies and minds, beginning with purging toxic thoughts and habits. Taking time for yourself shouldn’t be viewed as a treat, but rather as a necessity. We need to take care of our bodies and souls if we want to be able to function at our best without breaking down. We only get one body, after all. Show yourself some respect and tackle the issue before it gets worse!

Visiting a mental health retreat will teach you the skills you need in order to reset and recharge by helping you cultivate valuable practices you can continue back at home. It’ll jumpstart the process and be the catalyst for changing your life and living a healthier lifestyle, both mentally and physically. There’s never been a better time than now to unplug and reconnect!

To learn more about Mountain Trek, and how we can help you reduce anxiety and regain your mental health balance, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Guide To Hiking The Blue Ridge Appalachian Mountains

If you’re unable to join us for one of our health retreats to the Appalachian Mountains, where we hike the best trails of the Blue Ridge mountain range, eat light, healthy cuisine, and rejuvenate at night at the spa, we’ve created a guide to help you explore the area for yourself. In the guide, you will learn:

  • Where to Stay
  • How to Travel to the Blue Ridge Area
  • The 6 Best Hikes in The Blue Ridge Mountain Range
  • What else to do in the Asheville, NC and Greenville, SC area

We hope the guide helps pique your curiosity about the area, about hiking, and about living a balanced, healthy life. Enjoy

Mountain Trek’s Guide To The Blue Ridge Mountains

Accomplish your goals with “20 for 20”

When was the last time you read 20 pages without getting distracted? Or listened to your favorite music album for 20 minutes without feeling the need to do something else at the same time? When was the last time you went 20 days without having a glass of wine after work to help you unwind? Or gone 20 seconds without a thought racing through your mind?

2020 is not just a new year, it’s a new decade–the perfect time to take a step back, refocus, and reset. But that doesn’t mean we will magically accomplish all of our goals. In fact, 92% of all goals fail, so no matter how clean a reset this decade is, we still need a lot of help accomplishing our goals. This year, we’ve come up with a framework to help you do just that:

“20 for 20”

Simply put, whatever goal you set this year, make it 20 something—seconds, reps, days, you get the gist. Seems benign, yes, but this framework is easy to remember, makes a lot of sense when you dig into it, and let’s you get creative—a potent combination for success.

20 for 20 is memorable

Who can’t remember 20 for 20? How about 20/20 vision? How about the fact that this year is “20”-”20”? Definitely helps. So right off the bat, this framework is more likely to lead to success, simply because it’s memorable. That’s massive when it comes to succeeding as your goal will stay closer to the front of your mind more of the time. This will result in more awareness, and therefore greater chance for action. With enough practice we will eventually have success.

20 for 20 is fundamentally sound

We’ve studied goal setting exhaustively over the last two decades and have learned a thing or two. First, preparation is just as important as execution. Setting the right goal is vital. Otherwise, you’re just like Sisyphus, fighting an uphill battle the entire time. One strategy we’ve seen work year after year at our award-winning health retreat is following the acronym SMART. Set your goal so it is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time anchored (learn more about SMART goal setting). The 20 for 20 framework works really well with SMART goals. Take a broad goal of taking more time to pay attention to your breath. Applying the 20 for 20 framework would look something like, “20 seconds of focusing on my breath.” Applying the SMART framework would improve the goal. Making it more specific could be doing this first thing in the morning, before coffee, before checking emails. Measurable is the 20 seconds—we could use a watch or a phone timer. 20 seconds is so short it’s certainly attainable. Doing it every single morning? Perhaps that’s not realistic, so we should adjust a bit. Following the 20 for 20 framework, resolving to spend 20 seconds in the morning just 20 days per month might be more realistic. And to make this goal time-anchored, we need a deadline. Perhaps we start with a month. A SMART 20 for 20 goal would be resolving to “take 20 seconds each morning before waking to focus on my breath, 20 days of the next month”.

Another thing we’ve realized is that there are 5 main reasons our goals fail when trying to execute them:

  1. We set too many goals
  2. Our goals are too big (learn why micro resolutions are more effective than large goals)
  3. Our goals aren’t concrete
  4. Our goals don’t fit into our routine
  5. We don’t share our goals

Setting a SMART goal covers items two, three, and four; making a goal attainable and realistic usually means setting a smaller goal that fits into our routine, and making a goal specific and time-anchored makes it concrete. But what about setting too many goals, or not sharing? Setting too many is easy to fix: just set one goal at a time. But what about sharing our goals? Sometimes, it’s daunting to think about sharing our goals with a friend, but a small action like sharing our goal with a friend and giving them a weekly one-sentence update can dramatically improve our chances of success. In fact, this exact action has proven to increase the odds of success 10x! We think this small step is so powerful we’ve built a tool to facilitate it. Visit our goal tracker using the button below to share your SMART goal with the Mountain Trek team and then receive a weekly email touching base and asking for your update. Simple, yet incredibly powerful.

Increase Your Chances of Success With Mountain Trek’s Goal Accountability Tool

Unleash Your Creativity with 20 for 20

The wonderful thing about 20 for 20 is that it’s just begging for creativity and personalization. The breadth of possible goals that fall under this framework allows us to customize our efforts to our personal preferences—a final, and vital component of success. Making your goal relevant to you will significantly increase your interest in following through. For example, if you’re a big tennis player, setting a 20 for 20 goal that would in the long run improve your serve, touch, speed, agility, or hand eye coordination will be a lot more interesting than setting a 20 for 20 goal that has no direct benefit on your game. You’ll be more motivated to do the work, and you will show up more of the time. You’ll dig a little deeper and work a little harder when things are tough, because it matters to you that extra little bit. A 20 for 20 goal can, and should, break traditional molds. The usual resolutions of “lose weight,” “eat healthier,” “exercise more,” or “manage finances better” are so broad and boring—it’s no wonder that 92% of our resolutions fail each year. Make 2020 about getting creative.

20 for 20 Goal Ideas:

  • Take 20 seconds first thing each morning and just watch your breath. Follow it in and out, in and out, immediately upon waking. You might find that you spend longer than 20 seconds here because it’s such a nice, peaceful moment. But set your goal to do 20 seconds—that’s all it takes. Bonus: find 20-second moments throughout your day where you can pause, take a step back, and just focus on your breath. Transition moments throughout your day are wonderful opportunities, such as getting up from your desk to go to the bathroom, getting in the car or first sitting down on a plane, or getting off of a phone call.
  • Build a habit by doing something 20 days out of one month. We don’t have to do an action every single day to make it a habit, but we do need to create momentum in that direction. Doing something, such as waking up and immediately spending 20 seconds on your breath, 20 days out of the month, is a great step in creating a habit. It’s not shooting for perfection by doing it everyday, so we have some room for error, which is inevitable and important to embrace when building a new habit. Accepting, even welcoming, failure prevents us from catastrophically derailing the moment there’s one tiny bump in the road. Embracing failure makes us more resilient. Tip: put a physical calendar on your wall and put a big check mark over the days you successfully worked on your goal. Having this physical reminder of our progress will help momentum. Also, use the calendar to plan ahead. Look for days there’s little chance you’ll be able to work towards your goal, and acknowledge them. Preplanning “off” days will remove guilt on those day and reduce your stress.
  • Give something your undivided attention for 20 minutes each day. Two great ideas are music and reading. Listen to your favorite album for 20 minutes without looking at phone notifications or checking something off of your to-do list. Turn the volume up and really sink into the music, letting go of all of the other things you need to do once you’re done. Or find a comfy chair and just read for 20 minutes. Go into it with the same intention, to unplug from the world around you.

Now is your chance to reset, not just on the year, but on the entire decade. Start 2020 off on the right foot; give 20 for 20 a go!

Join in on the conversation on our Mountain Trek community page on Facebook. Let us know what 20 for 20 goals you are going to try and accomplish.

9 Ways To Digital Detox


I’ve recently become a parent, and because of that, I feel justified in employing scare tactics to warn you of the dangers out there in the world. I’m not talking about the man in the van who looks like a clown. You heard about him waaay back. I’m talking about something that Albert Einstein saw coming 70 years ago when he said, “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction, the world will have a generation of idiots.” HP, the company that promises, “With our technology, you’ll reinvent your world,” just surveyed over 7,500 people in North America to learn about our relationship with technology, specifically our smartphone screens. Ironic, yes; admirable, even more so.

What HP found in a recent study:

63% think our digital lives and real lives are out of balance.
50% of couples have used their phones to ignore each other.
65% think it’s ok to check their phone during dinner.
58% think it’s ok to check their phone on a date.
40% admit they use their phones in public to avoid talking to others.
63% believe relationships were closer in the past, and the same percentage believe relationships were more meaningful before social media.
60% wish they could return to a time before social media.
91% would rather have 1 real friend than 100 online friends.

I could shake these stats off and pretend they don’t apply to me, but HP also found that parenting has gone digital and that 1 in 3 parents spend over 5 hours daily on their phone, a stat that requires just too many exclamation points to bother entering them. Now that one stung…

Digital Use is Leading To Addiction, Depression, Suicide

I’m worried that if the day Einstein feared isn’t already here, it’s fast approaching. Selfies are up, relationships are down. Everyday it seems like there is more connection, but less connecting, and engaging with the *actual* world is becoming overwhelmingly intimidating. And while this certainly might lead to a generation of idiots, we’re now realizing that the staggering amount of time we spend staring at a screen is also leading to a generation of anxious, depressed, and lonely souls. Einstein had no idea the extent of what this technology dependence would do to our psyche. How could he? Who could have predicted that global depression rates would increase 18.4% between 2005 and 2015 and suicide rates in the US would rise 24% between 1999 and 2014? And that governments would have to step in and impose curfews on gaming for minors to prevent addiction?

Our digital habits aren’t just wreaking psychological havoc–they’re physically harmful too. Sitting 10+ hours a day in front of screens leads to chronic inflammation, which has been proven to be the cause of many serious ailments and diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and dementia. Cell phone pings and dings distract drivers from red lights, stop signs, children running across the road, and ultimately cause 1.6 million car accidents in the US every year. That’s one every 20 seconds. By the time you get to the end of this paragraph, there’s a chance someone just died texting and driving. That’s not okay.

But I do wonder. If Einstein were to see the amount of time we spend glued to our screens scrolling through an endless stream of emails and social feeds of seeming perfection, where we inevitably compare our mundane, everyday lives to the highlights of everyone else’s, would he really be that shocked? Or would he just say we’re all idiots for not realizing this would obviously deteriorate us physically and spike our social anxiety… As a new mother, I feel it’s my duty to try and change our current course so that my daughter does not, in fact, fulfill Einstein’s prophecy.

Be aware of your current usage

Just like a dietary detox, the first step in digitally detoxing is awareness. If you want to lose weight, gain muscle, you name it, you have to look at what you’re putting into your body. Garbage in = garbage out. Same goes for your relationship with your devices. Look at how you’re interacting with your devices by building a digital diet sheet. Record how much, how often and when you’re on your phone, laptop, game console, or TV; seeing just those numbers will do half the detoxing work. Tip: start with your smartphone and enable Screen Time on iOS and Digital Wellbeing on Android. These two stock features will give you a snapshot of how you currently use your smartphone. I personally like the stat about how many notifications you get each day. Just think, each notification breaks your concentration on what you were doing, be it driving, chatting with a colleague, or playing with your child.

If you’re anything like me and the rest of the Joes and Sues and Sallys out there, you’ll see you spend upwards of hours on social media weekly, let alone daily (Larry Rosen, psychology professor and author of The Distracted Mind, says, “Most people check their phones every 15 minutes or less, even if they have no alerts or notifications,”) but stop right there. Don’t judge yourself. Don’t judge your numbers. Simply be aware.

Technology isn’t to be demonized, by any means–it helped put a man on the moon and sequence the entire human genome–but the way it’s used today tends to keep people inside a bubble. Instead of simply inspiring or enabling us, it’s creating anxiety and tension and zombified trances. It needs to be rebalanced. Here are nine ways you can reprogram your relationship with technology.

Nine Ways To Digitally Detox:

 

Build “No Phone Zones” in your home

This could be the kitchen or the bedroom, places primed for human interaction and bond-building. Place baskets at the perimeters of these zones so you can physically leave your phone behind.

Set “No Technology Times” in your home

If you’re a culprit of looking at your phone before falling asleep or before your feet even touch the floor in the morning, leave it in the hallway when you go to sleep. Mountain Trek suggests stopping device-time at least one hour before bedtime to reduce blue light consumption, which is similar to the wavelength emitted by the sun and triggers our “rise and shine” cortisol stress hormone.

Let your friends and family know you’re taking a break from your phone

This way, you won’t feel anxious about people contacting you.

Turn off notifications

Notifications are the digital version of that person always bothering you. Mostly, they actually fuel potential symptoms of addiction by causing your heart rate to increase. Notifications let your phone control you, as opposed to how it should be, the other way around.

Turn on grayscale

By making your phone less desirable to look at, you’ll be less tempted to tap around on it. Here are tutorials for iOS and Android

Take distracting apps off your home screen

This way, you’ll have to intentionally seek out an app to use it, and, in doing so, you’ll cut down on the “accidental” time-sucks that happen when you mindlessly hold your phone.
Put a learning app like Duolingo or Elevate next to your social media apps, increasing your chance of skipping out on an hour-long social media binge. Learning is one of the best ways to satiate our mental needs.

Play phone Jenga

When you go to a dinner party, or at least host your own, encourage the guests to stack their phones. This way, everyone will be less inclined to look at them; you don’t want to be the one who removes your device and makes the whole stack tumble down.

Set out parameters

Don’t go all or nothing, because when you starve yourself of anything, your mind wants to go to the other extreme. Instead of deleting all your apps at the same time, try deleting Facebook first, then Instagram, and the list goes on. One habit for one day, then one week, then one month. The idea is to make your change a big priority and a small step.

The most delicious things in the world don’t taste so great after a few too many bites, and the same goes for digital consumption. But it’s hard to shake ourselves out of a stupor. It’s hard to “awake” once our brains have been habituated to scrolling through images and videos on devices and apps literally engineered for addiction. Breaking the trance will be hard. But you don’t have to go at it alone. In fact, we suggest getting a friend or family member bought in on the idea as well. Or, join the conversation on our Facebook page (an example of how social media can be used for good—just don’t get sucked into your feed for two hours!). For a full digital detox, come visit us in the lush mountains of British Columbia for a week of unplugging and resetting, physically, emotionally, and digitally! For more information on our award-winning health and wellness retreat, recently named the #1 Health Retreat in the US & Canada by Travel + Leisure, email info@mountaintrek.com or contact us.