Our minds and our bodies are strongly connected. It is a proven fact that when we are mentally tired, we feel physically tired as well, in fact we feel pain or we feel sick. Researches also show us that when faced with a life threatening illness, keeping a positive attitude helps reverse the negative side effects of this illness and in many cases reverses the illness completely. So it is important to treat our minds right so our bodies can feel healthy too.
Nature has always been an escape for the city dwellers who are caught in the craziness of the fast paced urban life. Most of us subconsciously yearn for a quiet place away from the noise and business of our daily lives. It is like our minds know that this is what we need. That’s why there is a big increase in the number of people who are getting involved in outdoor activities and hiking is one of them.
What does it do exactly to our bodies and our minds? Here is how, hiking can help us live a more balanced, healthier life:
- Hiking helps us focus: Especially if you are hiking alone, this is a great way to focus and rearrange your thoughts. If you have been in a stressful situation and you need a break and you decide hiking will be good for you, yes it will be. When you walk, you will find yourself thinking things over, maybe in the beginning you will feel anxiety and you will feel stressed out or even mad at the situation, but one of the best things about hiking is that the more we walk, the calmer our minds start to become. It is as if the physical energy we use helps us organize our thoughts and with each step, we find that these thoughts have less power over us and we feel calmer and free. The reason why this happens is because hiking is a form of meditation. When we meditate, we learn how to be in the present moment by learning how to pay attention to our breathing and by learning to keep our focus in the present moment. Hiking, in a sense, does the same thing but in a different way. It raises our heartbeat and improves our blood circulation and activates the part in our brain that controls the release of dopamine hormone. And this makes us move to the second reason why hiking is good for our mental health.
- Hiking reduces stress: Now that we mentioned how hiking helps with the release of dopamine, we should also mention that this hormone is the hormone that reduces stress and makes us feel motivated and happy. Spending time in nature and taking a break from technology rejuvenate our brains and in return we increase our mental and physical strength. Exercise in open and fresh air also cleans our bodies from the toxins that are built up in our system due to the effects of living in a city and having a fast paced life with poor diet. Oxygen is good for our brains as well as our blood. Our bodies renew themselves in nature. When we feel refreshed and rejuvenated, we can deal with stress much better and more effectively.
- Hiking increases creativity: When we are in the city, all the noises that come with the urban life become a source of distraction. We begin to not realize how much noise is being fed to us on a daily basis. The traffic, industrial machines, constructions, sirens etc. Even if we begin to not think of these disturbances consciously, our subconscious takes note and this results by us losing the connection with our inner selves. In order to reconnect with our subconscious mind, or Higher Self, we need to either meditate or go outside to the nature and forget about civilization for a while. When we do this, slowly, we rebuild our focus and learn to listen to the sound of the wind, the leaves, birds chirping, sound of a river nearby perhaps… these are all things we need to experience in order to get back to the creative mindset. Creativity suffers when we have problems with keeping focus on something. Creativity needs tenderness and care and nurturing of the mind with healthy and positive thought patterns. Because without healthy mind, we can not find motivation and without motivation, we can’t have inspiration, and without inspiration, we can never be creative.
- Hiking improves self esteem: Knowing you did something good for yourself and feeling proud of it, looking in the mirror and starting to like what you see. The feeling of accomplishment, satisfaction and self love… all things we need to feel about ourselves in order to build our self esteem. Going between home and work back and forth every day, having very little time for ourselves, losing so much time sitting in the traffic, eating poorly… these things build up in time and before we know, we find out we dislike ourselves. Maybe our poor diet caused us to gain weight and we don’t like our body, maybe the constant competition and stress at work made us mentally weak we don’t give ourselves enough credit for our accomplishments, in fact we don’t even notice our accomplishments or worse yet, we can’t accomplish anything because we are mentally drained. Exercising in nature and spending time in nature will help us regain our self esteem. If we can do this regularly, we will begin to lose weight and we will feel motivated to eat and live better. Once we start seeing a difference,, we will then realize, we have the power to change things and make our lives a positive one.
- Hiking can help us get rid of brooding: Thinking obsessively about the bad and stressful situations, or over analyzing everything until we convince ourselves that something must definitely be wrong… If we stop and think about how our thinking patterns can hurt us in the long run we would be amazed to see how much damage we caused to ourselves and to our mental health. Unfortunately, bad and negative and obsessive thinking become a pattern after some time because our brains adopt things as patterns and then sends mixed signals to our sub conscious mind. We can fix this and reverse the negative side effects of brooding by replacing it with a new pattern, and in order to develop a new pattern we need to start either meditating, or exercising or better yet, both. But hiking actually does give us both. Hiking can be an effective way to meditate as we explained before by teaching us how to focus. Hiking also helps by releasing dopamine and making us in return feel happy and satisfied. A healthy mind looks at things from a different angle. A healthy mind thinks calmly, does not panic and does not self destroy with negative thinking.