There is an understated simplicity of hiking. One foot presses on in front of the other. Eyes scan the path for our foothold, then into the distance and our surrounds taking in the environment. The sounds of the forest, beach or parks reach our ears in a song of birds, beach waves crashing or wind through the trees. We are interconnected with the world around us and melt into the web.
Nature walks aka hiking, is our place to reset. Our primal nature that lies deep in our DNA recognizes when we are ‘home’. In colour psychology, green represents calm, tranquility, health and is believed to relieve stress and assist in healing.
Green is the colour of Nature and the visual connection we have is deep rooted in our primal DNA. Where there is green, there is water, life and our survival. At a cellular level our bodies recognize this security and activate our parasympathetic nervous system to rest and digest.
Intuitively, deep within our bones there is an instinct, a euphoric feeling that is often hard to describe when we immerse ourselves in Nature. We crave this feeling, this sense of well-being, this sense of comfort physiologically.
Hiking gets your outdoors. It’s not an exercise that can be done indoors watching Netflix. Depending on your cadence it can provide a stimulating challenge. A great cardio vascular workout traversing trails up the side of a mountain or sand walking, our entire body utilizes large muscle groups to provide strength and support. Our leg muscles burn as we climb and our oblique wrap tight to support our spine as we push through the invisible barriers of our mind.
Connect within a group of like-minded people and you level up the benefits. As humans we thrive on a sense of belonging. A connection with others. Our early ancestors relied on a social network to not only survive but thrive by eating, sleeping, hunting and playing together.
Physiologically when we are connected in our network we are delivered with a hit of feel good hormones and neurotransmitters, providing throughout human evolution the reward of feeling good. We repeat these behaviours and essentially pass on this genetic code to our offspring as a way of conserving the knowledge and developing the human race.
As a community we have learnt from each other and with language, been able to communicate this to a larger society and through shared experiences. Research has shown that the quality of our social connections impacts physiological functions such as blood pressure, metabolism and stress hormones and subsequently immunity.
Simply being in Nature, whether a Mindful walk, picnic or purely being still, taking in the environment through all our senses will ultimately anchor you in the present moment. It allows an escape from the ruminating thoughts in our minds, allows us to become acutely aware and check in with our body.
Conversations, thoughts and barriers are overcome with a shift of perspective. Nature provides insight into our own nature. It gently reminds us of the cycles of life and impermeability. We only need look to Nature to better understand ourselves.
A 2 hour walk in Nature will help to un-plug from technology, find a slower pace, de-stress and relax you. Connecting with nature through all 5 senses offers many benefits such as;
Reduce blood pressure
Improve cardiovascular and metabolic health
Lower blood-sugar levels
Improve concentration, memory and creative thinking
Lifts moods, depression and anxiety symptoms
Improves pain threshold
Improves immunity and Natural killer cell count and activity
Increases anti-cancer protein production
Helps to lose or maintain healthy weight
Decrease in nervous tension, anger and irritability
Reduces stress, inducing relaxation and sense of well-being
Improves quality and quantity of sleep
We are hard wired to the natural world. Our health improves when we are immersed in it, so too our health suffers when we are removed from it.
Connecting with the Natural world through all our senses can be a meditative practice. Focusing on physical sensations calms a speedy mind and cultivates a gratitude for the beauty and interconnection of all things in life. When we practice gratitude on this level it brings about a sense of appreciation for the smaller things in life. This ultimately reduces ‘stress’, creating a pathway for positive mental health and happiness.
Being in Nature will restore our energy, improve our mood, rejuvenate us on a cellular level and unlock the secret to health and happiness.
This is WHY I hike and WHY you should too!