If you’re like most people in the world, you experience anxiety. I do, and I’ve found that hiking is a great way to get out of a funk. I know it sounds simple, but it works. Don’t believe me? Here are the top 8 ways hiking can help your anxiety. It helped mine!
#1: Healthy Body Healthy Mind
I’m sure you’ve heard over and over again that exercise is good for your body. But did you know it’s good for your mind, too? You don’t even have to do a crazy trek. All you have to do is choose a hike that elevates your heart rate and makes you sweat.
During physical activity, our body releases endorphins among other things. These very physical hormones help create a positive state in your mind. Not to mention it’s a little bit difficult to worry about your problems when you are in the middle of a hike!
#2. Enhanced Awareness
Do you remember your drive to work this morning? Are you checking your email as you read this? If so, you’re probably in the majority.
When we’re anxious, we have the tendency to spread our attention thin. Sometimes it’s the overwhelming demands of the day, other times it’s simply a habit. No matter the reason, our lack of awareness can actually make our anxiety worse. Cue hiking!
When we hike, we have no choice but to be acutely aware of the surroundings. Each step must be watched, each breath must have attention paid. There are very few distractions on a hike, and the ones that exist are going to enhance your awareness.
Can a form of exercise be relaxing? The answer is a resounding yes! In fact, I would argue that hiking is one of the most relaxing ways to help your anxiety. And scientists with professional hikers agree. Studies that reveal the benefits of being in nature have been all over the news lately! You read right. It has now been proven that being out in nature makes humans calmer.
#4. Low Cost
If budget is part of your stress, hiking can be a great inexpensive way to help your anxiety. So many ways to manage anxiety cost an arm and a leg. Hiking is mostly free. All you really need is a good pair of shoes, and even those don’t cost too much! Make sure you bring along water and snacks. Other than that, just the gas or bus fare to get you to your destination!
#5. Provides Perspective
Imagine you’re hiking in tall trees, high on a mountain, deep in a canyon, or in the middle of the desert. It’s hard to feel stressed with the vast expanse of landscape around you, the ancient trees, or the multitude of sands. Why? Being somewhere greater than yourself really puts your problems in perspective.
Many people who suffer from anxiety focus on the small disappointments of the day. When you are in nature, you realize there is so much more to life than what you are worried about. It’s quite a comforting feeling.
#6. Increases Self-Confidence
Not everyone with anxiety has self-esteem issues. Not everyone with self-esteem issues has anxiety. The two overlap for me, so I decided to add this fun fact to my list.
It seems weird to say that hiking increases self-confidence. On the surface, it doesn’t really feel like you’re doing much. You may actually feel even more anxious and unsure when you first start the hike. That’s normal, especially if you’ve never been much of an outdoor person. So how does this work?
Anytime you do something new, you learn new skills. These skills come about when you overcome a challenge. Once you begin to show yourself you can do it, you will notice your confidence growing. Not only that, but your resilience as well. You will do things you never thought you could, and feel better than you thought you would at the end!
#7. No Pressure
Performance anxiety is a huge deal for a lot of people. I don’t like to participate in team sports for that very reason. The pressure to perform, and perform well, feels like too much. Aren’t sports supposed to be fun?
If you go on a hike alone or with a trusted friend, there will be no pressure to perform. The only person you have to compete against is yourself, and only if you want to. Remember, you aren’t doing this activity to prove anything. Not to yourself or anyone else.
#8. An Introverts Dream and an Extroverts Challenge
Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, hiking can really help your anxiety. Introverts are known to thrive on being alone. They use alone time as a way to relax, process, and reboot. Introverts will experience much less stress without the social expectations that come along with most activities.
On the other hand, extroverts will find this to be a challenge. Even though these folks recharge by hanging out with others, they still need time alone. And what better way to spend your time alone than communing with nature?