While I did my due diligence and thoroughly researched this blog, I didn’t really need a slew of studies to tell me that hiking can transform your life. One amazing summer with a handful of unforgettable weekends left me with a longing for those vast expanses of wooded wonders that’s become a permanent fixture in my life.
There’s a peacefulness to these places where you can commune with nature that you can’t replicate in even the coziest home. In case you need some added incentive to grab your backpack and some comfortable shoes, consider these amazing ways that hiking can truly transform your life.
Nature Soothes the Psyche
Natural environments and views are undeniably restorative. A slew of studies on environmental psychology have shown that even so much as a more natural view through your window can improve your life satisfaction, reduce irritability, boost positive emotions, and soothe anger. While upgrading to an office with a view is certainly a start, there’s really no comparison to immersing yourself in the real thing. If you’re feeling the weight of too much stress piling on your shoulders, head out for a hike and feel it melt away.
Walking Eases Anxiety
The simple act of putting one foot in front of the other can help you ease anxiety. To me, it’s about the action of moving forward – over the hill, down a ladder, or across the creek. When I’m out there putting one foot diligently in front of the other again and again, I have more than just the perceived sense of progressing through life. I have measurable, physical proof of my accomplishments. I’ll take a day with 10,000 steps over one with 10,000 words anytime, even though career-minded readers could rightfully argue that the latter is more lucrative.
Scientifically, walking helps release accumulated adrenaline that’s released as part of the stress response. When that adrenaline sits in your system, it manifests as uncomfortable anxiety and muscle tension. Moving your body helps you let go of that pesky “fight or flight” chemical. Walking also releases endorphins which give you that all-natural happy high.
Hiking Makes You Hopeful
Mountain hiking was evaluated as a supplemental therapy for high-risk suicide patients who had attempted suicide at least once and were clinically diagnosed with hopelessness. Those who went through a nine-week hiking program showed significant decreases in hopelessness and depression. They also had a notable decrease in suicide ideation while they were actively hiking.
I’ve hit the trail during some of the most difficult points in this last year, and can personally attest to its ability to banish that bottomless sense of hopelessness and make things seem a bit easier. The sublime combination of physical movement and natural beauty bolsters the soul in a way I don’t think any study will ever adequately define.
Hiking isn’t hard – or at least, it doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to embark on the Appalachian Trail to reap these benefits (although it’s high on my bucket list). Just about any area where you can nab a little nature will do. Start small and see for yourself. Just don’t be surprised when it pulls you in a little deeper with every excursion into that rejuvenating retreat.