Many people struggle with their health and well-being. Sometimes, it feels like life gets so busy to the point that your mental and physical health falls by the wayside. This is where hiking comes in. Studies around the world have shown that hiking has incredible benefits when it comes to your mind and body. Not only does going for a hike connect you with nature, but it allows you to connect with yourself. Philippe Warnery is a French native and former Cosmetic Executive at Estee Lauder. He worked in the cosmetic industry for nearly 20 years, and his busy professional life ultimately made him realize the importance of taking time to relax and recharge. For Warnery, he finds rejuvenation in outdoor activities including running, spearfishing, and hiking.
1. Hiking Forces You to Slow Down
Hiking is one of the few activities that truly forces you to slow down and be present, shares Philippe Warnery. Going on a hike in nature provides an opportunity to escape the confines of your daily life, think about the world around you, and clear your head. This is an especially important process for those who live in busy urban areas. Such environments are distracting and can make it difficult to focus on what’s around you because you’re so focused on what’s right in front of you. In a city, your senses are overstimulated due to the sheer volume of people and the noise and light pollution that comes with it, which makes it much more challenging to slow down and live in the moment. These distractions are non-existent in nature. You can hear yourself, breathe, and think. You have the opportunity to take notice of the smell of the air and the sounds around you, and you ultimately come away with a sense of inner peace. Being able to connect with yourself and with nature while hiking is one of the greatest benefits that the activity offers.
2. Hiking Reduces Stress
According to Philippe Warnery, scientific studies have proven that hiking in nature can reduce stress and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Specifically, research has found that direct physical contact with the Earth has a multitude of physiological and mental benefits. These include reducing stress, inflammation, and pain, improving sleep, and even helping with various health disorders, such as cardiovascular diseases. Further studies have also shown a correlation between stress relief and spending time in nature. In fact, even something as simple as looking at nature, such as at a garden, has proven to have positive mental health benefits. In addition, Philippe Warnery claims that one of the greatest gifts that hiking provides is a sense of perspective. Going for a hike and staring out at the vast forest, valley, or mountain around you makes you realize just how big the world is. People who suffer from anxiety or depression often lose sight of the big picture. To get out of your daily mindset, sometimes going on a hike is just the thing to provide some perspective and help you remember that there is so much more to life than the stress or disappointment you experienced this week. So, the next time you’ve had a particularly long, hard work week, consider planning a hike on the weekend. Even ten minutes of hiking can help rejuvenate your body and mind.
3. Hiking Allows Time for Reflection
Relating to number one, hiking allows you to slow down, which in turn provides an opportunity for self-reflection. In nature, there is no one around to judge you. There are no expectations. You can be exactly who you are. For many people, being in nature is an extremely freeing experience. Nature can open your mind and allow you to reflect on your life, who you are a person, and your dreams and goals. Connecting with yourself might sound like something you do every day, but very few of us take the time for true self-reflection. So even if your motivation for going on a hike is physical, try to use the time as an excuse to connect your body and mind, and reflect on your life and the decisions you’ve made that have led you to where you are at the present moment. Consider what you like about yourself, what you maybe don’t like about yourself, and the type of person you want to be moving forward.