Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…
― John Muir
Even the thought of hiking creates a sense of calm and grounded-ness. Imagine the whisper of the green canopy overhead in the summer, the vivid colors of fall, the crunch of snow and rattle of the branches in the winter and the chatter of the birds in the early spring. As Muir eloquently states “wilderness is a necessity”. The longer we live in a city with no “nature” breaks the more we seemingly crave a walk or hike through the woods, in nature. While a stroll in a city park offers some exhale of relief, being in the middle of the forest or woods completely immersed in the physicality of the hike and sensory effects of nature around you is an all consuming pleasurable experience.
It goes as no surprise that there are more and more studies being reported of the health effects of seeking out nature. The Japanese have long believed in the healing powers of “forest bathing” and they are on to something! Taking a hike has many beneficial effects on both the body and mind.
Clears Your Head.
Being outside and especially fully integrated into the task at hand allows the mind to reset. No technological distractions and niggling responsibilities. This allows the tension we feel to decrease (anger, anxiety, depression, worry…) and opens us up to possibilities, hopes, new ideas. It creates a clear pathway to alter our focus. Hiking can be a way to meditate while still being active; not all meditation equates to body-stillness, but rather a hum of rhythm and quiet yet alert mind.
Boosts that Creative Flow.
Research has shown that spending time outdoors helps restore creative problem-solving skills and increases our focus and attention to a task by as much as 50%. Any type of movement has been linked to an increase in brain capacity; think more oxygen and blood moving through the body more certainly reaches the brain.
The ability to move your body and succeed in accomplishing the smallest to the largest parts of your hikes (reaching a mountain peek or getting out the door) undoubtedly builds self confidence. Your ability to physically accomplish a task translates to trusting that you have it in you to grow and succeed in other areas of your life as well. Venture on!
Does the body and mind good.
We know that exercise does wonders for your muscles and cardiovascular system, but hiking in particular relegates all types of muscles in the body legs, arms, butt, hips, neck, and abdominals to join in and work. All the exercise increases our serotonin levels (happiness hormones) to reduce depression and create a sense of well-being and happiness.
Connects you with Nature and something Bigger.
Breathe-in deeply in the midst of the fresh air, trees, plants, sunlight, streams, and wild animals reminds us that we are a part of something much bigger than ourselves and this in and of itself can be grounding. It opens our eyes to the bigger picture and allows us the space to get outside our own problems and view the world more empathetically.
Forms Strong Bonds.
Whether you hike alone, with friends, a significant other or your dog bonds are formed. With little distraction it is possible to carry out a full conversation without interruption or judgments from passersby. It becomes simpler to strengthen a relationship through the shared experience. You may find out more about your inner voice and self.
Every hike is an adventure in so many ways. It doesn’t need to be grueling or weeks long in order to reap major health benefits. So get out there and (at risk of sounding completely redundant and cheesy) take a hike!