The Benefits of Hiking on our Mental Health

06 December 2023
3 min

There is nothing quite like the feeling of lying down in your bed after a long hard days hiking. Your legs are throbbing, and if you’ve been carrying a tent and rucksack, your shoulders are not happy. Yet your mind is completely and utterly clear.

Back to Nature.

Countless studies have shown that, taking the time out of your hectic daily life to really lose yourself in the natural world can have an enormous impact on your mental wellbeing. There is too much to look at, too much natural beauty to take in. Your mind is brought to the immediate world around you, so you don’t have a second to ruminate on negative thoughts or overthink things. Nature helps your centre yourself and find some sense of inner balance and calm that we can so often lack in our everyday lives.

Sometimes a bit of pain isn’t such a bad thing.

Struggling on a tough hike can be arduous and exhausting. Your grim blisters, sore feet and aching legs are howling at you to stop, but all you can think about is getting to that breakpoint, that campsite and or final resting place. All that’s on your mind is finishing. Though the pain scarcely seems worth it at the time, your rewarding sip of beer at the end tastes all the better. Tough hikes and physical exertion help you refocus your mind and force you to concentrate on just one task and one task alone. Instead of being pulled in a dozen different directions, when you’re hiking, all you have to think about is putting one foot in front of another and finding somewhere to rest up for the night. Getting back to basics can do wonders for our psyche and simplicity is sweet music to your strained and tired brain.

Block out the noise.

Our lives are flooded with technology and with it, all the stresses and anxieties of social media and an increasingly skewed work life balance. We sit in front of computers all day and our phones are practically glued to our back pockets. If you can afford to, there is something wonderfully freeing about simply plugging out and silencing news notifications, work emails and social plans. Most things can wait.

Covid 19 and Looking after yourself

Now, more than ever, we need to focus on how we can nurture this relationship. This global crisis has ushered in a period of great uncertainty and brought a whole lot of anxiety and worry into our lives. Being stuck inside certainly doesn’t help, but ensuring you’re making the most of your daily exercise can go a long way. You might be more inclined to jog every day, but at the moment I actually prefer walking. It clears my head and gives me space to breathe, both physically and mentally. It’s certainly harder to roam as freely in a city, but I would recommend varying up your route every day and, if you usually walk with someone else, give a solo outing a try. Leave your anxieties back at home and try just focusing on the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other. Drink in your surroundings; notice colours, nature and listen. These are strange times indeed, but walking, exercise and the great outdoors can shift your perspective and re-centre your mental balance for the better.