Community//

Can Hiking help us feel in control of our lives?

Hitting the trails is good for your physical health. Yet how can hiking help us with our mental health and our ability to feel in control?

How hiking helps us take control of our lives

Do you feel like everything seems to be out of your control? Your goals seem like they are never getting closer. You are working harder than ever but don’t seem to be achieving what you want. Then you should go on a hike.

Hiking is a great way to help us feel in control. There are several mental as well as physical benefits from hitting the trail.

Whilst no one disputes that hiking is good for your physical health, hiking is great for your mental health too. Whenever I feel down, overwhelmed, anxious or that everything is out of my control I know that a day in my local hills will help. Hiking in the Yorkshire Dales in the UK helps me feel in control.

One way that hiking helps you take back control of your life is goal setting. Set yourself a goal of completing a new trail, conquering a new peak or hiking by yourself. Set yourself a hiking goal which is achievable but will also push you.

I can’t drive. I want to learn but do not have the time juggling three jobs and with lockdown it is not possible at the moment. In the UK, reaching the start of a hike often requires the use of a car. I frequently curse myself for not learning to drive when I was a teenager, as I was saving up for university. The fact that I lack this skill is a huge hit at my self-confidence. The negative voice in my brain rears its ugly head telling me that I cannot do anything. Yet rather than submit to the downward spiral of negativity, I know I can get to the hills.

Getting to the Yorkshire Dales national park is possible by public transport. Over the last year I have explored the dales by train and it has helped me feel more in control than ever before. During these car-free hikes in the Yorkshire Dales I was able to challenge myself with new hikes. Navigating new terrain, reaching a new peak or hiking further than ever before gave me immense satisfaction afterwards. I could set a goal and achieve it! I did not even need to be able to drive to do this!

If you feel like everything is out of control, challenge yourself to reach the summit. Once you reach that summit you will feel better. The ability to set yourself a task and complete it successfully demonstrates that you can do it! Whenever you are back in the office or in the middle of a never-ending task, remember that feeling of completing your hiking goal. Remind yourself of that feeling of satisfaction. You are in control and you can achieve your goals.  

Another benefit of hiking includes being able to clear your mind. Focus on the trees, the path, the sky. Stanford University conducted a study demonstrating clear mental benefits of walking in nature compared to walking in Urban areas.

Once your mind is relaxed, ask yourself calmly what you don’t feel in control of. Can you actually control it? If yes, then what can you do to control it. If you are not able to control it, you need to accept it. We cannot control everything and need to learn to let it go. The weather in the north of England is a great metaphor for this. You cannot control the British weather but you can pack a waterproof coat.

When you hike is over you will feel better from spending time in nature. Trees are especially great at calming us down as a recent NIH study found that “contact with real or simulated green settings as opposed to [manmade] settings have positive effects on mood, self-esteem and self-reported feelings of stress and depression”. Furthermore, your muscles may ache slightly which remind you that you were strengthening your body, as well as your mind on your hike.

Hiking can be a great tool for helping you feel in control of your life. Set yourself a goal and do it! Stand on that mountain top and tell yourself how amazing you truly are.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

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