Hiking to Cope and Reset

There is never a shortage of events around the world to make you both grateful and cynical about life. Whether it’s natural disasters such as Typhoon Mangkhut in Hong Kong, or Hurricane Florence on the east coast of the U.S. or suffering the personal loss of a family member or friend, loss is constant and inevitable. Learning to cope with difficult situations is one of the most important mechanisms we can develop as human beings, and sometimes, the best way to reset your mind is by spending time away from the constant bustle of everyday life.

Resetting your Mind

There are a lot of things to get away from in the 21st century. More than ever before, we are surrounded by information regarding people, places, and events that are constantly happening around us, and this excess information often causes individuals to feel insecure and existential. For millennials and newer generations who have largely been raised in an era of technological advancements and connection through social media, it can be difficult to forget that life outside of the online grid is legitimate and offers valuable perspective.

Mental illness affects millions of people around the world, with conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder, depression, PTSD, and OCD being some of the most common forms. These conditions can make coping with tragedies so much more difficult than it is for neurotypical individuals, especially because experiencing loss and displacement has been known to trigger forms of anxiety and depression that are long-lasting. As difficult as it can be to manage sadness and depression, studies show that exercise can help combat mental illness.

Healing with Nature

Camping can be a ritual for outdoorsy people who have grown up on trips to the mountains with their families. However, most people can stand to benefit from an occasional outdoor adventure.

Getting out of cell-reception can get you away from artificial light-induced insomnia and into the tree-covered mountains that explode with stars in the nighttime. Although we often feel like we can experience just about anything from our cell phones and laptops, you can’t experience the sweet smell of sap on trees or the chill of pitch-black darkness at a campsite illuminated only by the moon unless you’re outside in nature. It can be a transformative experience to step away from the everyday lives we lead and spend a day hiking to a hidden lake at the top of a mountain.

Therapy Benefits

Hiking can be therapeutic in helping you clear your head while your body focuses on moving uphill and climbing through mountain brush. Exercise can help relieve stress, improve sleep and memory, and boost your mood by releasing serotonin during your workout. While this can provide many benefits to some people, though, it still does not mean that everyone can manage mental illness simply by exercising. Although going out into nature can help put life circumstances into context, keep in mind that this is not enough for those who suffer from severe anxiety and depression.

Often times, people need medication and counseling to manage anxiety and depression. Counseling can manage anxiety and depression by working to change thought processes that contribute to negative mental health, a practice called cognitive behavioral therapy. This therapy provides a practical approach to solving problems that are induced by people’s behavior by thinking critically about your thoughts and actions, and by having a counselor hold you accountable for your behavior. Challenging unhealthy thinking patterns that happen naturally but are unhelpful can help you cope with loss, stress, and anxiety more effectively.

Hiking can provide a lot of benefits for individuals who need to reset their brain in order to center themselves and refocus on the important things in life. It can be really easy to get caught up in things that don’t matter with the impact of social media and being offline for a few days can really help relax your mind from the constant and overwhelming presence of the internet.

Spending time in nature can have therapeutic benefits, however, it should not replace medical treatment if that is needed. By climbing mountains, we can overcome the internal obstacles in our lives, look inwards to learn more about ourselves, and solve emotional problems we don’t prioritize as much as we should.

Photo by Holly Mandarich

Avery Phillips

Avery Phillips

Avery Phillips is a freelance human based out of the beautiful Treasure Valley. She loves all things in nature, especially humans.

Avery Phillips

Avery Phillips is a freelance human based out of the beautiful Treasure Valley. She loves all things in nature, especially humans.