The great American naturalist and nature essayist John Burroughs once wrote:
“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”
Everybody from experienced hikers to those taking their first steps in nature will usually agree that there is little more relaxing than a gentle walk through the forests, mountains, natural parks, and coastlines of our world, but why does this simple pursuit bring such relaxation and clarity to such an enormous amount of people around the world.
In this article, we will look to explain why hiking is so damn relaxing and the many other benefits that can be found in putting on a good pair of shoes and venturing out into the wild.
So why is hiking a relaxing activity? Let’s dive in!
Hiking Provides Natural Stress Relief
What if we told you that there was a way to safely reduce your stress levels without any drugs, therapy, or squeezing yourself into yoga pants (unless you want to), what’s more, it was completely free of charge! You wouldn’t believe us right?
Many studies have proven time and time again that going for a hike is the perfect way to relieve stress and shake off those heavy negative feelings that sap your energy and bring you down, what´s more, it can raise levels of self-confidence and kick off an upward spiral raising not only mental wellness but all-round health too.
The American Public Health Association confirms that just being around nature is enough to markedly increase relaxation, which helps relieve stress.
Hiking or even just walking releases chemicals in the brain called endorphins that bring on feelings of relaxation and lift our mood. Research has proven that these endorphins start to be released shortly after we start walking and do not require a fast pace or high-energy hike, just a simple walk at a comfortable pace should be enough to make your day seem a little brighter.
How to hike for stress relief
- Aim to walk smaller hikes more often than 1 big trek occasionally.
- Choose a simple walk for your level of fitness.
- Try to get into and around nature.
- Hike with a loved one, friend, or pet to share the experience with.
- Remember to stop and take in your surroundings.
- Listen to your favorite music.
Hiking Is A Form Of Meditation
Most think that meditation requires sitting on the floor with your legs crossed, breathing deeply, and burning some sage but in fact, meditation can come in many different forms and many people enter a state of meditation whilst out hiking without even knowing it.
The best explanation of the goal of meditation is by Prepare Your Mind which states that:
The basic concept of meditation is that it is a practice that connects the mind and the body. Its purpose is to help increase both physical and mental peace and calm, which also helps you to learn how to live more fully in the present.
For many, the purpose of hiking is to lose themselves in the wilderness, experiencing each passing moment as they slowly stroll along their chosen path, soaking up all that nature has to offer them. Focussing on the colors of the forest, the magnitude of the mountains, or the crashing waves of the ocean can take you away from your cares and thoughts that can swim around your head and stop you from entering a relaxed state.
If you struggle to let go of yourself and relax whilst out on the trail, we have listed a few of our top tips on how to meditate whilst hiking below and encourage you to try them out for yourself on your next adventure.
How to Meditate While Hiking
- Close your eyes and focus on the sounds, scents, and sensations of your surroundings. Feel the wind on your face, listen to the water cascading down a waterfall or fill your lungs with the clean air of nature.
- Take a moment to stop to enjoy the beauty of nature around you, remembering that the purpose of your hike is not to complete the task but enjoy the journey.
- Take deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth.
- Tune into your walking rhythm, listen to your feet tap on the ground as you walk and the gentle rhythm that is created, maybe softly counting 1-2,1-2
- Leave your phone at home or at least on airplane mode, and try to shut off from distractions from the outside world, this is your time.
- Remember to smile. It might sound strange but it really brings you peace as you hike.
Hiking Helps You To Sleep
Hiking provides you with endless beautiful views, stress release, and a trimmer waistline, it also helps you to beat insomnia and drift off for a restful night’s sleep!
A study on Americans’ sleeping habits in adults from ages 23-60 found that 76% of people who regularly engaged in light or moderate activity such as hiking reported very good or fairly good sleep quality and were more likely to sleep more than the minimum requirements during the working week.
How Does Hiking Help You To Sleep?
- Hiking tires you out – increasing your sleep drive and forcing your body into a deep slow state of sleep at the end of the day.
- Hiking reduces weight and excess body fat – Excess fat can cause conditions such as night sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and asthma which disturb your sleep and can stop your body from entering a deep sleep.
- Hiking lifts your mood – We can all agree that being in a bad or anxious mood is not good for a night of sleep. Hiking has been proven to lift your mood and wash away those feelings.
- Hiking Offers a Good Reason To Sleep – Ever sat up until late on your phone or watched TV because you don´t have much to do the next day? Us too! Planning a hike for the following day will give you a reason to hit the hay at a reasonable time which can lead to a better night’s sleep
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