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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 September 20, 2018

          How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

          How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

          Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

          If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

          1. Breathe

          The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

          • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
          • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
          • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

          Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

          2. Loosen up

          After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

          Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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          3. Chew slowly

          Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

          Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

          Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

          4. Let go

          Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

          The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

          It’s not. Promise.

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          Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

          Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

          21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

          5. Enjoy the journey

          Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

          Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

          6. Look at the big picture

          The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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          Will this matter to me…

          • Next week?
          • Next month?
          • Next year?
          • In 10 years?

          Hint: No, it won’t.

          I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

          Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

          7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

          You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

          Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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          8. Practice patience every day

          Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

          • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
          • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
          • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

          Final thoughts

          Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

          Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

          Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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