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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 November 9, 2020

          10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

          10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

          Bad habits expose us to suffering that is entirely avoidable. Unfortunately, breaking bad habits is difficult because they are 100% dependent on our mental and emotional state.

          Anything we do that can prove harmful to us is a bad habit – drinking, drugs, smoking, procrastination, poor communication are all examples of bad habits. These habits have negative effects on our physical, mental, and emotional health.

          Humans are hardwired to respond to stimuli and to expect a consequence of any action. This is how habits are acquired: the brain expects to be rewarded a certain way under certain circumstances. How you initially responded to certain stimuli is how your brain will always remind you to behave when the same stimuli are experienced.

          If you visited the bar close to your office with colleagues every Friday, your brain will learn to send you a signal to stop there even when you are alone and eventually not just on Fridays. It will expect the reward of a drink after work every day, which can potentially lead to a drinking problem.

          Kicking negative behavior patterns and steering clear of them requires a lot of willpower, and there are many reasons why breaking bad habits is so difficult.

          1. Lack of Awareness or Acceptance

          Breaking a bad habit is not possible if the person who has it is not aware that it is a bad one.

          Many people will not realize that their communication skills are poor or that their procrastination is affecting them negatively, or even that the drink they had as a nightcap has now increased to three.

          Awareness brings acceptance. Unless a person realizes on their own that a habit is bad, or someone manages to convince them of the same, there is very little chance of the habit being kicked.

          2. No Motivation

          Going through a divorce, not being able to cope with academic pressure, and falling into debt are instances that can bring a profound sense of failure with them. A person going through these times can fall into a cycle of negative thinking where the world is against them and nothing they can do will ever help, so they stop trying altogether.

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          This give-up attitude is a bad habit that just keeps coming around. Being in debt could make you feel like you are failing at maintaining your home, family, and life in general.

          If you are looking to get out of a rut and feel motivated, take a look at this article: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It)

          3. Underlying Psychological Conditions

          Psychological conditions such as depression and ADD can make it difficult to start breaking bad habits.

          A depressed person may find it difficult to summon the energy to cook a healthy meal, resulting in food being ordered in or consumption of packaged foods. This could lead to a habit that adversely affects health and is difficult to overcome.

          A person with ADD may start to clean their house but get distracted soon after, leaving the task incomplete, eventually leading to a state where it is acceptable to live in a house that is untidy and dirty.

          The fear of missing out (FOMO) is very real to some people. Obsessively checking their social media and news sources, they may believe that not knowing of something as soon as it is published can be catastrophic to their social standing.

          4. Bad Habits Make Us Feel Good

          One of the reasons it is difficult to break habits is that a lot of them make us feel good.[1]

          We’ve all been there – the craving for a tub of ice cream after a breakup or a casual drag on a joint, never to be repeated until we miss how good it made us feel. We succumb to the craving for the pleasure felt while indulging in it, cementing it as a habit even while we are aware it isn’t good for us.

          Overeating is a very common bad habit. Just another pack of chips, a couple of candies, a large soda… none of these are necessary for survival. We want them because they give us comfort. They’re familiar, they taste good, and we don’t even notice when we progress from just one extra slice of pizza to four.

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          You can read this article to learn more: We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why?

          5. Upward Comparisons

          Comparisons are a bad habit that many of us have been exposed to since we were children. Parents might have compared us to siblings, teachers may have compared us to classmates, and bosses could compare us to past and present employees.

          The people who have developed the bad habit of comparing themselves to others have been given incorrect yardsticks for measurement from the start.

          These people will always find it difficult to break out of this bad habit because there will always be someone who has it better than they do: a better house, better car, better job, higher income and so on.

          Research shows that in the age of social media, social comparisons are much easier and can ultimately harm self-esteem if scrolling becomes a bad habit[2].

          6. No Alternative

          This is a real and valid reason why breaking bad habits is difficult. These habits could fulfill a need that may not be met any other way.

          Someone who has physical or psychological limitations, such as a disability or social anxiety, may find it hard to quit obsessive content consumption for better habits.

          Alternately, a perfectly healthy person may be unable to quit smoking because alternates are just not working out.

          Similarly, a person who bites their nails when anxious may be unable to relieve stress in any other socially accepted manner.

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          7. Stress

          As mentioned above, anything that stresses us out can lead to adopting and cementing an unhealthy habit.

          When a person is stressed about something, it is easy for bad habits to form because the mental resources required to fight them are not available[3].

          We often see a person who had previously managed to kick a bad habit fall back into the old ways because they felt their stress couldn’t be managed any other way.

          If you need some help reducing stress, check out the following video for some healthy ways to get started:

          8. Sense of Failure

          People looking to kick bad habits may feel a strong sense of failure because it’s just that difficult.

          Dropping a bad habit usually means changes in lifestyle that people may be unwilling to make, or these changes might not be easy to make in spite of the will to make them.

          Overeaters need to empty their house of unhealthy food, resist the urge to order in, and not pick up their standard grocery items from the store. Those who drink too much need to avoid the bars or even people who drink often.

          If such people slip even once with a glass of wine, or a smoke, or a bag of chips, they tend to be excessively harsh on themselves and feel like failures.

          9. The Need to Be All-New

          People who are looking to break bad habits feel they need to re-create themselves in order to break themselves of their bad habits, while the truth is the complete opposite.

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          These people actually need to go back to who they were before they developed the bad habit and try to create good habits from there.

          10. Force of Habit

          Humans are creatures of habit, and having familiar, comforting outcomes for daily triggers helps us maintain a sense of balance in our lives.

          Consider people who are used to lighting up a cigarette every time they talk on the phone or eating junk food when watching TV. They will always associate a phone call with a puff on the cigarette and screen time with eating.

          These habits, though bad, are a source of comfort to them, as is meeting with those people they indulge in these bad habits with.

          Final Thoughts

          These are the main reasons why breaking bad habits is difficult, but the good news is that the task is not impossible. Breaking habits takes time, and you’ll need to put long-term goals in place to replace a bad habit with a good one.

          There are many compassionate, positive and self-loving techniques to kick bad habits. The internet is rich in information regarding bad habits, their effects and how to overcome them, while professional help is always available for those who feel they need it.

          More on Breaking Bad Habits

          Featured photo credit: NORTHFOLK via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1] After Skool: Why Do Bad Habits Feel SO GOOD?
          [2] Psychology of Popular Media Culture: Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem.
          [3] Stanford Medicine: Examining how stress affects good and bad habits

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