It’s Mental Health Week and thought it was the perfect opportunity to open up about the effects hiking has had on my mental well-being.
I can confidently say since adding hiking to my regular routine several years ago, I’m an overall happier and relaxed person. I’ve been lucky enough to have never struggled with a serious mental illness. However we all go through moments of anxiety and/or depression and each have our own methods of coping.
From the darker moments to the best moments of my life, hiking has been incredibly therapeutic for my mental and spiritual state.
It’s several things – it’s the disconnecting for those few hours a week. It’s breathing in fresh air and the smell of crisp leaves. It’s the sheer concentration of just putting one foot in front of the other. It’s the strong human connection felt among my fellow hikers without distraction of life or devices. It’s those raw euphoric moments that consume every part of you, and all you can think is “I cannot believe I’m here. I cannot believe this is real. I cannot believe I did this.”
We SEE examples of those moments all the time – on memes, Facebook, Instagram. It’s those pictures of gorgeous scenery with words like “There’s no wifi in the forest but you’ll find a better connection” typed across in a fancy font. But those are real places, ready to be seen, ready to be discovered, ready to experienced by you.
I’ve been lucky enough to have had my fair share of those “euphoric moments” – in the Rockies, Adirondacks, Gatineau Park, and most recently on Mount Kilimanjaro.
However those moments can be outweighed by the painful and tough “I think I’m actually dying” moments. In fact, the euphoric/“I think I’m actually dying” ratio was a solid 30/70 on that stupid mountain (this blog explains those moments).
But thanks to those tough lung-crushing moments, over the last few weeks since being home I’ve noticed my perspective has shifted on several aspects of life…
1) My threshold for being uncomfortable or in pain is much higher during physical exercise. The inner dialogue has changed from “you can’t do this” to “get over yourself you literally hiked a mountain 3 weeks ago”.
2) I feel more confident about my body and it’s abilities than ever before.
3) I have less time for bullshit.
4) I don’t like being around negative people, and I notice a lot sooner when I’m the one being negative.
5) I have a fire in my belly to build a community of like-minded people who want to spend time outdoors.
So I’ll see you on the trail soon, right?
Lots of hiking love,