Is there anything better than being in nature? Its gentle stillness combined with vast, open space is a considerable contrast to our everyday lives.
That peace of mind you feel as you take a stroll in the park is no mere coincidence. It turns out that people have emotional and mental connections to nature.
A recent study at Ohio’s Oberlin College concluded: “Contact with nature is associated with increases in happiness, subjective well-being, and a sense of meaning and purpose in life, as well as decreases in mental distress.” The less you’re exposed to natural, green spaces, the more likely you are to experience cognitive issues; the constant distractions of noise and electronic devices can affect your memory and concentration.
We could all benefit from the invigorating sights of trees, mountains, and waterways. If you’re looking to boost your mood and ease your mind, give hiking a try.
Hiking is a great way to expose yourself to the beauty and majesty of nature while also reaping tremendous benefits for the mind and body. It fills the void of peace, serenity, and personal space that we miss in our everyday lives.
Sometimes all you want is to take a breath and be alone with your thoughts. On a hike, there is nothing but ample space and opportunity to breathe and live in the moment. It can be as simple as walking along a winding path of a flat trail with your headphones on or as difficult as climbing a rocky mountain.
Not sure how to start? Allow me to lend a hand.
The Perfect Resource For Hikers
Curious hikers should check out alltrails.com– the one-stop shop for outdoor enthusiasts.
Alltrails.com is a website whose entire purpose is connecting people with nature. Using their search engine, you can find local hiking trails by city, park, or trail name. You can narrow your search results by filtering the paths by difficulty, duration, and rating, to name a few. Each route has a general overview of the location, including facts and history, weather tracking, and helpful keywords such as “stroller-friendly,” “dogs on a leash,” and “views” so you know what to pack and what to expect.
Trails are labeled by difficulty, allowing you to choose one that’s best suitable for your comfort level. If that’s not helpful enough, check out uploaded photos and reviews from real people who have completed the trails themselves.
If you’re a fan of the site, they offer a “Pro” subscription service with bonus incentives like downloadable maps, 3D maps, and off-road notifications.
Their free app is available to download, so you can take this hiking encyclopedia with you on the go.
Do It For The Fitness
Remember those body benefits I mentioned earlier? When you go on a hike, you’re in for a mood-jolting, heart-pumping, full-body workout. Washington Trails Association (wta.org) confirms that hiking is excellent for “burning calories, increasing strength, and boosting endurance.”
Depending on the trail’s difficulty, at any given time, you could be working muscles in your upper body, core, and lower body. While trekking through uneven terrains and riverbanks, you’ll lunge, squat, and leap, which will activate your knees, thighs, calves, glutes, hips, and hamstrings.
Continuous walking is superb for building endurance and strengthening the heart. If you stick with it, your body will be more toned, and you’ll have improved balance, as well as increased strength and endurance.
Due to the physical demands, it’s recommended that you stretch before and after hiking and drink plenty of water– staying hydrated and stretching are essential to preventing injury.
Become A Better Version Of Yourself
When you hike, you’re not just achieving your daily step goals, but you’re also making strides towards personal fulfillment. There’s something about the scenic routes and tranquil environments that melt your stresses away and promote feelings of openness and vulnerability.
Hiking is the perfect layout for mind-clarifying activities like meditation, journaling, and self-reflection, which can help you get to the root of a problem or weigh in on a tough decision. The freedom to be in your personal space gives you time to focus your attention inward.
Additionally, the adrenaline rush of conquering challenges, like climbing a mountain, provides a significant boost in morale and self-esteem.
The exhilaration of ascending hundreds, possibly thousands, of feet in the air will create an appetite for you to achieve more goals and take on new challenges …one trail at a time.
New York City hiking tour guide and yoga instructor Jennifer Rivadeneira (IG @thebxyogi) has been an avid hiker since her childhood.
Jenn has pushed herself to conquer trails as complex as the Grand Canyon, which at its highest point, is over 7,000 feet and has an ever-growing love for hiking culture. “I love hiking for so many reasons. I love being able to be in nature. I love the peace of it–being able to release and really, truly reflect. When you’re alone, you’re really alone. It’s only you and your thoughts—also, the fitness. The actual climbing of the mountain is unforgettable. It helps a lot with negativity. Anytime that I’m feeling down, I bring that right back up into my memory, and I’m like, ‘yeah, I did that!’.”
This passion inspired her life’s mission to spread the awareness of hiking throughout New York’s inner city and expose people to the lifestyle they otherwise wouldn’t think to try.
Jennifer had a few helpful tips for anyone looking to try hiking for the first time:
- “Don’t go alone.”
- “Download the map before you leave.”
- “Be as distraction-free as possible.”
- “Hydrate the day before.”
- “Pack as much water as possible, more than you’ll think you’ll need.”
- “Bring small snacks and food like sandwiches, fruits, and nuts which are great sources for energy.”
- “Trust yourself. Trust your decisions.
- Do what you can do but keep in mind that you may not know what you’re capable of until you try.”
- “Take your time and enjoy nature.”
- “Do things differently.”
At times we can feel consumed by the stress and demands of our daily lives. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it helps to take a moment to recollect and reset.
The world is full of beautiful, safe spaces. If you’ve been battling symptoms of anxiety and stress, spend some time in a peaceful atmosphere. Hiking is a great way to do that. At the very least, you’ll have a quiet moment, distraction-free, where you can be at peace.