We all know hiking provides excellent physical exercise…but you might be surprised to learn just how good hiking is for your mental health.
Today we’re going to explore 5 ways getting outdoors can improve your mental health and wellness.
Hiking Clears the Mind
We’ve all felt the physical sigh that happens when you step out of your car into a state park or natural area. It’s as if every fiber of your being lets out a collective ahhhh.
While walking in an urban environment is great exercise, studies have found that hikes in natural areas have an effect on cortisol levels, reducing stress and allowing the mind to let go of worries and concerns.
Hiking Improves Brain Function
Not only does hiking create a sense of calm, it can also boost brain function. Research suggests that hiking in natural environments can actually improve cognitive reasoning and improve areas of the brain that control memory and critical thinking.
Hiking Improves Your Attitude About Life
Given our hectic schedules and demanding jobs, it’s easy to get stuck in a place of negative self-talk and emotional exhaustion.
Getting out into nature gives your mind something else to focus on, exposes you to the beauty that still exists in the world, and reminds you there is more to life than what goes on within the walls of your office or home.
Nothing puts your place in the world into perspective like camping overnight and enjoying the gift of staring up at celestial bodies as they dance overhead. (If you missed our recent blog about the best places to enjoy stargazing, you can read it here).
Make sure you’re prepared for the hike back to your tent in the dark by having a quality flashlight as part of your gear. We love the Guardian Tactical Flashlight because it is rechargeable, waterproof, and shoots a white-hot beam of light allowing you to see 300 yards in front of you.
Hiking Allows You to Disconnect
There is something magnificently untethering about going out on a hike without the digital umbilical cord. Knowing you cannot be reached allows you to set daily stressors aside and focus on the joy of the hike.
And, if you absolutely feel you need to have phone in your pack for safety reasons, consider putting it on silent mode or powering it down altogether to prevent the outside world from creeping into your respite.
Hiking Boosts Self Esteem
We sometimes forget how amazing our bodies are at doing hard things. When we challenge ourselves to stretch beyond our comfort zone and take on a rigorous hike, we are rewarded with a sense of accomplishment.
And there’s research to back this up—studies have shown that even minimal exercise outdoors leads to increased confidence.
Author Frank Herbert once said, “Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken." It is so easy for us to get stuck in a rut, in the same routine, and to lose focus on the things that are good for our physical and mental health.
I encourage you to carve out time this week to get outdoors. Wake up the part of you that’s forgotten your body is strong and capable. Today is the day to start hiking your way to improved mental health.
Happy hiking, friends!