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10 Ways That Hiking Has Made My Life Better

10 Ways That Hiking Has Made My Life Better

When the grind of the city gets to be too much, my first instinct is to hit the trails. There is just something about hiking that pushes the stress of everyday life out of my head and lets me enjoy the simpler parts of life. Scientific research has even begun to provide evidence in support of the 10 ways that hiking makes my life a whole lot more enjoyable. Here’s how:

1. I can relax

A 2011 study in the Journal of Public Health found that people who spent time in nature showed significantly reduced levels of stress hormones in their bodies than people who remained in the city, and I can vouch for that! When I’m hiking, all the anxiety of work and assignments fades away behind the sound of rushing water and crunching leaves.

2. I can recuperate

Psychologists have known for a long time that spending time outdoors refreshes the mind. Research from the Journal of Environmental Psychology way back in 1995 demonstrated that people who went outside outperformed city dwellers on a number of challenging mental tasks. I know when I come back to an assignment after a hike, all the work suddenly seems more doable.

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    3. I can get inspired

    There’s something about seeing nature at work that gets the creative juices flowing like nothing else. Maybe it’s being able to push all the usual stress out of the way, but scrambling up a mountain or hiking to a remote waterfall gets me thinking about things in entirely new ways and lets me find solutions to problems I didn’t even consider before.

    4. I can improve my focus

    Feeling rejuvenated after a hike also translates into me having more energy to spend on a given task. After I unlace my boots and wash off all the trail grit I can devote hours to a job that I only had the patience to tackle in 20-minute bursts before I got outside. There’s nothing like fresh air to clear your head.

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      5. I can fight off disease more effectively

      Believe it or not, time spent outdoors can significantly improve your immune system. Several studies in the Journal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents, as well as the International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, have found evidence that the Japanese practice of Shinrin Yoko (literally “forest bathing”) can boost immune function. The active agent is thought to be chemicals released by trees called phytoncides.

      6. I look better

      I have long suspected that if I didn’t hike every chance I get, I would quickly move up a few sizes in the world of pants and research seems to support that. Studies in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine have found that hiking is an effective way to shed extra pounds. The effects are even stronger if you can get hiking at high altitudes.

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        7. I feel invincible

        I may not feel like a superhero when I’m sweating through my shirt and panting like a dog in a sauna on the side of a mountain, but when I haul myself onto the summit of a mountain I feel like I could outrun Usain Bolt. Research in the Journal of Travel Medicine supports the idea that hiking makes you feel strong, with respondents on hikes reporting stronger positive emotions than those who stayed at home.

        8. I can test my limits

        The only way to know what you are really capable of is to walk up to the limit of you physical ability and try to take one more step over the line. Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the first two people to climb Mount Everest, probably said it best: “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”

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        9. I can make new friends

        Almost without exception, the people I’ve met on trails have been the nicest strangers I’ve come across anywhere in my life. The people I have been on hiking trips with are some of the fastest friends I have ever made. There is something about sharing a tough experience with another person that helps you set aside differences and find common ground.

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          10. I can change my perspective

          You will never feel smaller than you do standing at the lip of the Grand Canyon or in an expansive mountain valley. Everything in the civilized world from taxes to car payments to a cell phone that constantly drops calls seems insignificant when you’re up against the scale of nature. It is nice to be reminded that everything in your life that seems like a big deal only really matters because you let it.

          Featured photo credit: Didgeman via pixabay.com

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          Last Updated on January 21, 2020

          The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

          The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

          Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

          your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

            Why You Need a Vision

            Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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            How to Create Your Life Vision

            Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

            What Do You Want?

            The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

            It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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            Some tips to guide you:

            • Remember to ask why you want certain things
            • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
            • Give yourself permission to dream.
            • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
            • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

            Some questions to start your exploration:

            • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
            • What would you like to have more of in your life?
            • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
            • What are your secret passions and dreams?
            • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
            • What do you want your relationships to be like?
            • What qualities would you like to develop?
            • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
            • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
            • What would you most like to accomplish?
            • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

            It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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            What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

            Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

            A few prompts to get you started:

            • What will you have accomplished already?
            • How will you feel about yourself?
            • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
            • What does your ideal day look like?
            • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
            • What would you be doing?
            • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
            • How are you dressed?
            • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
            • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
            • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

            It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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            Plan Backwards

            It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

            • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
            • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
            • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
            • What important actions would you have had to take?
            • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
            • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
            • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
            • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
            • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

            Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

            It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

            Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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