People love hiking and camping for different reasons. Some see it as a family activity. Others can’t get enough of nature. Some people use it as a way to escape from the “real world” for a little while. In truth, that escapism idea can be extremely beneficial to your mental and physical health.
There’s no denying we live in a fast-paced society. Sometimes, that pace can be overwhelming. That’s never been truer than in the last year, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. While hiking and camping were considered fairly safe experiences throughout the pandemic, many people were still too fearful or concerned to leave their homes for a nature-filled getaway.
That’s likely one reason 4 in 10 adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression throughout the pandemic.
Now that the world is starting to reopen and things are getting back to normal, feeling that sense of escapism is more important than ever. It’s not just about “recovering” from the pandemic, it’s about taking a break from the stress of work, a demanding social life, everyday errands, chores, or even just your digital life. Be honest – how addicted are you to your phone? One study found that 60% of college students admit to having that very addiction. If that sounds like you, it could be doing more harm than good to your physical and mental health.
But, not everyone can just flip a switch and forget about the “real world” while they’re on a hiking trip. So, what can you do to stay focused and make the most of your little escape? Let’s talk about why it’s important, how it can benefit you, and what you can do to focus on your well-being during your next adventure.
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The Benefits of Getting Away
If you’re already an avid hiker, you likely know some of the big benefits of spending time in nature. It’s a natural prescription for your physical and mental health. The Japanese have even cultivated something called Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, designed to reduce stress levels and increase physical activity.
So many people are feeling overwhelmed and stressed right now by everyday life. The mental health benefits of getting away on a hiking trip can’t be ignored. Some of those psychological benefits to be aware of include:
- Increased attention span
- Boosted creativity
- Improved mood
- Better brain function
As you can see, the mental benefits (in addition to lower stress and a boost of happiness) are things that you can take back with you into your routine. If you’re feeling like you’re in a work slump, go on a hiking trip to boost your creativity and productivity. Is your relationship struggling? A hiking trip can boost your mood and your attention span so you can put more focus on healing it.
Of course, it’s not just the mental health benefits you should consider. We don’t have to tell you that hiking is a great workout. It improves your cardiovascular health, builds stamina, strengthens muscles, and encourages endurance. Maybe you’re feeling low because you got out of shape during the pandemic. Or, maybe you’re anxious to move because you work a desk job all day. Whatever the case, you can push yourself and your physicality on a hiking trip, and reap the rewards while feeling better from the inside out.
Dealing With a Digital Detox
One of the biggest hurdles you’ll have to overcome on a hiking trip is letting go of everything else for a few days. Digital detoxing is a great way to do that, but it can be easier said than done. Keep in mind that it’s important to have your phone on hand whenever you’re away from home. Emergencies unfortunately happen. If you’re completely “off the grid” and unreachable, it could be dangerous. But, try to remove as many distractions as possible from your phone to stay off it while you’re enjoying your trip. Use some of these tips to make that process easier:
- Delete or hide apps that take up most of your time.
- Avoid keeping the phone on your person (store it in a tent, bag, etc.).
- Turn off your notifications.
- Create times that need to be totally “tech-free.”
If a digital detox seems like overkill, it isn’t. It’s actually more beneficial than you might realize, especially if you’ve been having a hard time staying focused or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Ditching your phone for a while can completely change your perspective. When you combine that with the natural beauty and experiences that come from a hiking trip, you’ll come home feeling more relaxed and refreshed than ever.
Additionally, a digital detox can improve your sleep habits, reduce stress, and reduce FOMO (fear of missing out). You won’t be worried about what your friends are doing on social media. You won’t have to fret over the latest bit of “bad news” the world might be facing. For a short time, you can let go of all of that and focus solely on your hiking experience. That’s true escapism. While reality isn’t something you should ignore for long periods, short bursts of detoxing can make a big difference in how you feel.
How to Be Mindful of Every Moment
Mindfulness has grown to be a buzzword over the last few years. But, it’s not a gimmick, and it’s a great way to stay focused on the present while reducing your stress levels. Some people can find it difficult to be mindful in their everyday lives because they’re surrounded by distractions.
But, when you’re out in nature, it’s the perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness. Being mindful while you’re hiking will make it easier to carry what you learn back to your everyday life. Doing so can improve your overall well-being.
Being mindful on a hiking trip is different than being mindful while you’re sitting at a desk. Because you’re surrounded by nature, there are unique things you can do to practice mindfulness while appreciating your surroundings, including:
- Setting a positive intention before you start your hike.
- Focusing on your breathing while you’re active.
- Take breaks throughout your hike to take in your surroundings and reflect.
- Taking deep breaths to inhale the “good” surrounding you.
- Letting go of negative thoughts.
The goal of mindfulness is to remain in the present moment. Thoughts will continue to come in and try to distract you. But, you can take a look at the sky to learn how to handle those thoughts – let them pass by like clouds. You can’t control what comes into your mind, but you’re in full control over how you respond. Choosing to be mindful at the moment will allow you to exercise that control and feel more at peace.
It can be hard to disconnect and completely let go of what’s waiting for you at home. But, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Committing yourself to stay focused on your hike and yourself will help you to feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and refocused when it comes time to get “back to reality.”
Whether you’re a frequent hiker or you’re just getting into it for the first time, keep these ideas in mind to get the most out of your experience. By staying focused, you’ll be able to reap the benefits of hiking without overwhelming yourself.
CONTRIBUTOR: Luke Smith
Words about contributor of this Article: “Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but lifestyle and outdoor topics are his favorite. When he isn’t writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.”