If you suffer from anxiety, depression or other mental illnesses, trying to cope in the outside world can leave you exhausted and feeling isolated. Sometimes getting out of bed can feel like an almost impossible task. The thought of going outside and doing any kind of physical exercise might seem like especially too much.
That’s the strange thing about exercise and emotional health. You have to make the effort to do it, but once you do, you will find yourself in a better place. Yes, it may sound trite but it’s true.
Hiking and Emotional Health
It sounds kind of scary. Mental images of mountains, wildcats and bears come to mind. Sure, lots of people hike in exotic locations, but it doesn’t mean that you have to. It doesn’t have to be extreme. To start hiking, all you have to do is put on a good pair of shoes and walk out the door. Anywhere that has some green grass or trees will do.
If you suffer from major depression, it can be hard to take note of what’s keeping you down. Further, it may not be an external source. Oftentimes, it’s not situational. Be sure to look at this book – A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives.
Rather, very commonly the source of depression often has to do with physiology and, believe it or not, food.
Likewise, in many situations, exercise has been shown to be just as effective as medication. See this book – Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain to learn about how exercise can be just as effective and more effective than medication. This is where hiking comes in, says hello and seriously gets down to helping you straighten things out in your head. Hiking can be that exercise to take you to places that can also help with your mind and emotions.
Hiking For Your Emotional Health
The thing about hiking is you will probably feel good doing it right from the start, but taking baby steps will keep you from being overwhelmed. You’re not going to cure yourself in a single day, or a single hike, but over a relatively short time you will start to notice the difference.
Time to Think
One reason why hiking can improve your emotional state is that it gives you time to think. Inevitably you can work out problems in your mind without the interruptions from the busyness of life. It’s like a mini vacation for your mind.
Leave the Cell Phone at Home
If you’re trying to get away from the stress in your life, checking your phone throughout your hike isn’t a good idea. This defeats the purpose. Unplugging has been shown in at least one study to help aid in depressive and stress-related symptoms.
Increases Creative Problem Solving Leading to Less Stress
According to this study titled Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings people are better able to creatively solve their problems by spending time in nature. By spending time in nature our creativity is sparked and mental fatigue is reduced.
According to a study titled A Potential Natural Treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Evidence From a National Study children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) who hike have shown marked improvement in their illnesses. Doctors and researchers have made promising discoveries for ADHD patients by including hiking in nature as part of their treatment.
Rumination and Obsessive Thinking
According to a study titled Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation urbanization is associated with increased levels of mental illness. This study found that spending time in nature settings reduces rumination and repetitive, obsessive and negative thinking.
Hiking has become such a positive influence on mental health that doctors are starting to prescribe it as a treatment for depressed patients. Many doctors have come to the conclusion that being outdoors is better for your mental health than exercise in a gym or some other less vibrant atmosphere. If your doctor tells you to “take a hike,” just remember he has your best interests in mind.