Hiking, or traversing through nature by foot, has been a main form of transportation for much of human history. Nowadays, we’d be lucky to get in a short 15-minute jaunt on our lunch breaks. But what if we all dedicated a bit more time to getting outside? To tiring our feet on dirt trails? To feeling the fresh breeze on our skin? What if we all made a vow to start hiking today?
What Is Hiking?
First, I want to clear up what hiking is and is not. When I first thought about hiking, I thought it had to be done in the mountains. In which case, I would have been SOL as Northwest Ohio is as flat as a board. Hiking can be done in the mountains, but it is not a requirement. Hiking is simply walking in nature. Hiking is “a long, vigorous walk, usually on trails, in the countryside” versus walking, which is the term for “shorter, particularly urban walks.”
Hiking, like other forms of activity, can help reduce your risk of many common diseases. Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety, and arthritis are all positively impacted when you start hiking regularly. While all of these are great reasons to go outside and start hiking today, I have found these 4 reasons to be even more compelling.
4 Reasons To Go On A Hike
1. You Appreciate Nature More
One of the things I love most about being submerged in nature is how perfectly imperfect everything is. There are no straight lines or perfect circles in nature. Everything has it’s own unique shape and color. Being surrounded by the beauty of nature reminds me of the responsibility we have to take care of it. It helps me to appreciate the magnitude of that responsibility.
2. You Feel More Connected To The Earth
It’s easy to feel disconnected from the natural world with the current standard way of living. We often work in office buildings placed in concrete jungles or live in homes with neatly manicured lawns. We’ve pruned nature back and prevented it from being … well… natural. Hiking has helped me feel more connected to a way of life that is no longer typically lived.
People lived in synergy with nature for such a long time, and then agriculture became a corporation. We started tearing down what had been there for centuries before us to make way for big businesses. Taking time to imagine the history of whatever natural area you are in can help you to feel more connected to the bigger picture.
3. You Get A Space To Think Independently
These days, most of us have an account for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Youtube, etc. I’m sure I’m forgetting some, but for fear of this post becoming any lengthier, I’ll let you create the list. It’s hard finding and sharing authentic ideas and opinions in the mess that is social media. Often we’re scared to post our real feelings or ideas because we could be mocked or judged. And let’s face it, people can be really cruel when they’re sitting behind their computers versus what they may actually say to your face. Also, it’s often the inauthentic posts that we see receiving hundreds of “likes” and “shares,” which can make the effort seem even more futile.
However, nature offers no judgment. You’re free to be you. I have found that hiking allows me to think more clearly and assess my thoughts and feelings in a way that is more productive. It’s allowed me to develop thoughts and opinions that are my own simply by giving myself space from everyone else’s thoughts and opinions.
4. You Develop A New Perspective
It’s easy to be overwhelmed with the magnitude of problems in our own worlds, uneasy relationships, health problems, dissatisfaction with situations, etc. We often let these problems consume us to the point of anxiety and depression. But being out in nature can provide you with a new perspective. It surely won’t make these problems disappear, but it can help you to realize that your problems may not be as big as they feel.
There have been many times when I’ve gone out hiking and I’m mulling over a frustrating situation. Maybe, someone posted a nasty comment or I’m feeling worn down from the negativity on Facebook. But then I get outside. In no time, I begin to think of the ways I can combat the issue. Maybe, it’s being on Facebook less or choosing not to read or respond to comments. I’m able to realize how insignificant these issues are in the grand scheme of things because I’m immersed in a much bigger picture. I’m able to come up with solutions and no longer feel the weight that these problems once held.