John Muir put it perfectly when he said that “in every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” I haven’t always been a hiker and it’s only recently that I’ve discovered how relaxing and rejuvenating a walk in the wilderness can be.
You might wonder how puffing your way up a mountain, braving the elements, putting up with bugs and getting blisters could make for a happy day, but ask any hiker and they’ll rave about how amazing hiking is for the mind, body and soul. Here are 5 ways that hiking can make you truly happy.
1. Hiking Reduces Stress
It’s a well-known fact that exercise reduces stress, but in my experience nothing soothes the mind and soul more than simply being outdoors. When you’re a tiny dot standing in the middle of a meadow or are experiencing the vastness of the Grand Canyon, nature helps to put life’s problems into perspective.
Scientists have even suggested that we’re evolved to become more relaxed in nature. They’ve found that just looking at video of a natural setting has a significant impact on reducing stress levels.
A recent study compared walking for 20 minutes in an urban environment to walking for the same amount of time through a park, and discovered that stepping into a more natural landscape for even a short amount of time can decrease stress and anxiety.
2. Nature Inspires
There’s nothing like being in the woods, discovering a remote beach or scaling a mountain to inspire your creativity! In fact, researchers have shown that switching off technology and immersing yourself in nature can increase your creativity and problem solving skills by as much as 50%. Being outdoors helps create more novel thoughts and walking encourages these thoughts to flow more freely. Next time you’re stuck for ideas, head outside and let nature inspire you.
3. Hiking Keeps Your Body Healthy
Hiking is a great low-intensity exercise that doesn’t put too much pressure on your joints, making it ideal for almost anyone! Long-distance hiking can burn serious calories for weight loss but it’s also great for building leg and core strength, boosting your immune system, lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. Having good health is a key factor in living a happy life so get out there and take in all that fresh air!
4. Hiking Can Fight Depression
I’m sure every hiker has experienced the mood boost that being surrounded by nature’s beauty gives you, and scientists have gone so far to suggest that hiking is a great way to prevent and even supplement the treatment of depression. It’s not just about the exercise; being surrounded by nature is key and increasing urbanization has even been considered as a possible cause for the rising incidence of mental illness. So it’s true, hiking really does make life brighter.
5. It’s Fun!
My favorite thing about hiking is that every morning when you head out, you never know what you’re going to find! Hidden waterfalls, incredible views, up-close encounters with wildlife, new canyons to explore… every walk has its own unexpected joys and I’ve created incredible memories with the people I’ve shared them with. The beauty of nature is pretty hard to ignore and best of all, it’s free! So what’s stopping you? Plan a hike for this weekend and enjoy your happiness!
While you’re out there enjoying nature, help to keep it green for others to enjoy by taking your waste with you, not feeding wildlife, using eco-friendly equipment and leaving the landscape as you found it.
About Eric Carrell
Eric is Editor in Chief of True North Athletics, an avid adventurer and a digital nomad. He enjoys all types of outdoor sports, traveling, a good golf tan and spontaneous weekend trips. He currently lives in Brazil, where you can often find him hiking the rainforest around his city.
Inspired? Register for the Race for Wellness to start your fitness journey! The Race can be done from anywhere in the world and lasts September 15th to October 15th. Set your own goals and contribute to a great cause!