After a long hike, you probably exit the trail feeling more fulfilled than when you entered. However, many hikers don’t know the science behind the mood boost, mindfulness, and stress reduction following a good jaunt in the woods.
Studies show there are significant health benefits to regular contact with nature. Other research indicates that hiking can combat anxiety, improve mood, and develop greater self-esteem.
This guest post discusses several ways hiking can benefit your mental health, providing lasting effects. By the conclusion, you may feel inspired to disconnect from the stresses of daily life and reconnect with the present moment by heading to a hiking trail near you.
Connecting with nature is a key factor in mental well-being. One study tracked peoples’ moods and locations throughout four European countries. Results found improvements in mood after only 10 minutes outside.
A separate study showed that individuals who spent more than two hours outdoors each week had superior health and emotional well-being compared to those who did not spend time outdoors.
Ninety-five percent of people interviewed in a study stated their mood was better when they spent time outside. The individuals claimed they felt more balanced and relaxed.
We recommend you head out on a hike and test these theories for yourself. This might include taking a local hike or maybe something more planned like a Machu Picchu backpacking tour.
Research indicates that people tend to less stressed, nervous, and depressed after spending time outdoors. However, there’s more behind this theory than simply a “feeling.” Another study stated that individuals with depression improved their cognitive capacity and self-esteem after 50 minutes of walking in nature.
Contact with nature lowers the secretion of cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone. When a person feels stressed, more cortisol is released. Taking a hike in nature reduces the secretion of this hormone, which in turn reduces stress and anxiety while improving general mood.
Feeling socially connected to others is a significant indicator of mental health. Strong social connections can help improve mental health by reducing the negative effects of stress. Social connections also promote healthier behaviors, such as getting outdoors to exercise.
Hiking is an activity that is often enjoyed with friends. However, you don’t have to have a bunch of hiking buddies in your contact list before you begin. There’s a reason hiking trails are popular. If you choose to hike on a nearby trail, you’re likely going to run into at least one person who’s also enjoying the natural beauty of the same path. Regularly heading to the same trail can quickly turn strangers into friends.
Many communities also have walking or hiking clubs that connect individuals who want to get outside but don’t have a network of hiking buddies yet. A simple admiration for the outdoors connects like-minded individuals deeper than many can imagine before they begin hiking.
Now that you know why and how hiking leads to happiness, it’s time to lace up your boots and discover the trails near you. The mental health benefits of hiking are just some of the many reasons to head out into the woods, disconnect from what’s causing you stress, and build new connections with outdoor enthusiasts in your community.