Are you really stressed out and feel like you are losing your mind at times? If so, I have great news for you! Hiking is an amazing stress reliever; it has physical and mental benefits.
However, I am only going to discuss the benefits that pertain to your mental well-being in this article. I wanted to start here, because I believe that in many cases that physical issues can actually start with the mind. Take over eating for example.
If you are stressed and use food as comfort, then this can lead to eating too much, which adds weight to your body.
Through our five senses, we get stimulation that can either help or hinder us. Too many loud noises, bad smells, etc. can quickly turn our happiness to headaches.
It is through hiking and getting out in nature that will give your senses positive stimulation only.
When you go hiking, you want to take along foods such as granola bars, dried fruit, and trail mix. These foods provide you with plenty of energy and will keep you going on those long hikes. I’ve never seen anyone take pizza, doughnuts, or beer with them out on the trail. Now, I do have friends that love to eat big meals after a hike. However, they have burned enough calories during the hike that they won’t gain weight by eating the hamburger or burrito.
Compare this to when you stuff your face at home and then go plop on the couch for the rest of the morning. You have all those calories that aren’t going anywhere.
On this note, make a habit of heading out to hike on the weekends vs. watching tv or going to the mall. It will take a shift in your mind set, but once you start hiking on a more regular basis it will turn into a habit. It will be something that you just have to do.
The best example I could think of for touch is how excited you will be when you finish an epic hike that you hug your friends or family that you go with! Hiking with your family will bring you closer together. I love hiking with my kids- they truly enjoy exploring and picking up various objects. Sometimes they do ask me to touch a rock or even a bug. The other type of touch includes your feet hitting the earth. This ties into sound as well, but I love hearing the earth crunch beneath my boots as I hike.
There is a healing technique called earthing. This is where you walk barefoot so you can pick up the energy from the earth. There are barefoot hiking clubs; I’m not to this point yet!
According to earthing.com, we can feel isolated from the Earth by non-conductive materials such as rubber and plastic (our shoes), wood, plastic, laminate, and asphalt (flooring surfaces). Unless you are a Park Ranger, you are exposed to these daily because the materials are prominent in office buildings, malls, and other enclosed spaces.
If you are able to, get outside during your lunch break and walk around the park or other available green space.
You may also find yourself grabbing onto various rocks and boulders as you ascend or descend down a mountain. If you have hiking poles, then you will also feel the power of your arms as you move them while you hike. Compare this to your butt touching the seat in your office chair while you are slumped over in front of your computer. Hiking naturally brings out the best in your body and mindset.
Ahhh.. the beautiful sounds of nature; birds chirping, wind whipping through the trees, and snakes rattling their tail. Okay- maybe the last one would not be an enjoyable sound for some.
With a trip to the mall with you kids, the only sound you might hear is them crying because they didn’t get the toy they wanted. In nature, you’ll hear sounds of excitement from your kids when they find a pinecone or discover a beautiful flower.
The peaceful sounds of nature are soothing and satisfying to our souls. Loud sounds found in the City such as jack hammers, revving engines, and sirens can easily grate on ones’ nerves.
Don’t underestimate what a negative coworker can do to your mood either. Hearing someone complain all day definitely will affect your mental well-being. The trees and plants don’t complain- they are happy where God planted them. During those stressful weeks at work, it is even more important to combat with a hiking trip.
The smells of nature are unique and cannot be duplicated anywhere else. In the forest, there is the smell of the damp earth combined with old fallen leaves. This earthy smell has a calming effect. The trees also have their own distinct smells. Some can have a sweet smell while others are almost sour or bitter, but they’re all wonderful. Walking through a forest of pine trees can be one of the most enjoyable experiences ever. The smell of a river is more difficult to describe, but I just know how relaxing it is to watch.
My favorite smell in nature is a campfire. I guess it takes me back to my childhood days when my family would go camping.
How often do you smell car exhaust or garbage and it takes you back to happy days? It just doesn’t happen.
The trees, rocks, and plants are a sight for sore eyes! The symmetry of the trees and the perfectly orchestrated petals on a flower are stunning.
Hiking into new areas will give you a renewed appreciation for where you live. I go hiking all the time, and I have barely scratched the surface on places I still want to go. The areas I have hiked all been spectacular in their own majestic way. Here in Arizona, you can hike in the desert among cacti or in a forest of Pine Trees all in the same day. Hiking in my opinion, is one of the best ways to see your State. There are many different types of plant and animal life that you will not see otherwise.
With hiking and being out there in nature, we also see the sun. The sun gives us Vitamin D which is important to our immune system and bone health. This natural lighting is way healthier than the artificial lighting that many people work under on a daily basis.
If you have a long commute you may see a long line of cars ahead of you, and nothing but concrete and billboards along the way. Is it any wonder why you are in a bad mood sometimes after a long day of sitting in traffic and being in a cube or office all day? Getting out in nature and being active is the best way to alleviate stressors in your life.
I hope this article encourages you to give hiking a try if you’ve never gone. You only receive positive input into your senses when you are out in nature. If you have fear about hiking, then join a hiking group and start with baby steps. Don’t try hiking 10 miles your first time out. Start with walking around your neighborhood or go up and down the hills in a nearby park.
For those of you who do hike, what other benefits does hiking provide to your mental well-being? What else you do appreciate about nature? I would love to hear your comments.