Pack hiking is defined as the outdoor recreation of carrying gear on one's back while hiking for more than a day. While it needn’t be an extended journey, it is about self-sufficiency and challenging yourself in the great outdoors. All that you need in a pack for a weekend adventure, small, like-minded social groups, and the expansiveness of natural spaces; so, why is this answer to overcoming anxiety?
Let’s start with WHY.
WHY ARE WE ALL SO ANXIOUS?
It’s no secret that the Pandemic has had, and continues to, have a significant impact on the Mental Health of the entire world. The past 21months in Melbourne have seen us take the title of the most lockdown city in the world and with ruinous consequences.
A survey by the Australian Bureau of statistics on the Household Impacts of COVID-19, in particular, the Emotional and mental wellbeing found:
One in five (20%) Australians experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress
Almost one in three (30%) younger Australians (aged 18 to 34 years) experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress, compared with 18% of people aged 35 to 64 years and 10% of people aged 65 years and over.
More people living in Victoria (27%) experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress compared with the rest of Australia (18%).
The stress response in relation to the ongoing lockdowns, financial worries, uncertainty, community divide, and isolation; particularly those living alone is connected to and exacerbates conditions of generalised anxiety, depression, and sleep problems.
The exhaustion felt worldwide is compounded with people adapting to new ways of living. Working from home whilst homeschooling our children, loss of income, and disconnect from our community and important nature.
THE NEED FOR NATURE
70% of the world’s population lives in cities or urban areas.
With the hours decreasing we are spending outdoors, downtime in front of Netflix, computers, or staring at the device in our hands. The startling correlation is clear to scientists such as Dr. Qing Li from Nippon Medical School in Japan who studies the benefits of spending time in nature for the mental and physical benefits.
The lack of trees in urban spaces and our habitual comfort-seeking patterns have removed our instinctual need to wander in the great outdoors. Our modern society of seeking comfort and ease is partly to blame for this rise in anxiety. More screen time, less green time, and a decline in physical activity.
When we chose to challenge ourselves in physical ways, we develop muscle strength. Our mindset and overcoming obstacles can be tackled the same way.
In order to develop a strong mindset and ability to deal with stressors, however insignificant they may seem, we need to find ways to incrementally challenge our comfort-seeking ways. What better way than taking on an outdoor adventure? Immersed in the elements and senses alive, anchoring you at the moment.
Anxiety can be described as an unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger, either real or perceived. Our primal brain creates this biological signal in order to protect ourselves from a hostile environment, a real threat thousands of years ago. In today’s world most of our fear, our anxiousness derives from fear of failure, the unknown, rejection, and manufactured fears or outcomes we project.
The best way to overcome our reaction to anxiety is to take action. The act of doing something creates tangible outcomes. By taking a hike in a natural bushland space, we heighten our senses to the environment around us, doing so we anchor ourselves into present time awareness and out of our anxious minds of the future and what has not yet come to be.
HOW PACK HIKING HELPS
The challenges we face are the hardships that ask us to dig deep and conjure all our strength, grit, and determination to push past when we’re ready to give up. That’s where the magic happens.
The most memorable times in our lives are the ones where we were asked to step up, step into a new strength – this is what the trail provides. It calls upon our ability to work through, problem solve, and find the reliance within. In doing so, we are empowered, more confident in ourselves, and feel a great sense of self – who we are and what we are capable of.
Pack hiking in a group, supported by experienced and knowledgeable guides is like a cheer squad for life.
We are here to show you the way, provide support and assistance for hurdles, and empower your journey into a memorable hiking experience.
Steeped in adventure, pack hiking is an empowering experience to remind you that you are not only capable of overcoming difficulties but you welcome them. You are strong of body and mind and the challenging summit is more than taking in the views from the top. It’s about self-efficacy, confidence, and a sense of accomplishment.
Pack hiking teaches self-sufficiency. The autonomous of carrying your own pack frees the mind of the apprehension of the past few years, of being denied our freedom of travel and exploration, of independence.
….and then there are the therapeutic benefits of spending time in nature.
It’s not all hard. Between the summits, the challenging sandy beach walks, or navigating the river crossing and the moments that seem all too hard and you start to question “why did I sign up for this”, we find stillness.
We find ourselves in the therapeutic hands of nature.
The sights, sounds, smells – it all tantalises our senses and anchors us into the now. Hiking in nature requires you to pay attention. To focus on the steps you take, to look across the alpine landscape as the sun sets and you slumber down for the night, all anxiousness subsided with a few kilometers hiking in nature.
Hiking is a cost-effective intervention that encourages people to be physically active while spending time in nature. Time in nature can lead to health benefits through contact with the natural elements, participation in physical activity, restoration of mental and emotional health, and time with social contacts.
Dr Qing Li research of Forest therapy/ Nature therapy has found many benefits that may be immediate, such as:
Decreased blood pressure
Decreased stress levels
Enhanced immune system functioning
Enhanced cognitive function; memory, concentration, focus
Weight loss and or maintenance
Decreased symptomology of depression and anxiety
Enhanced activity of anti-cancer cells and activity
Overall wellness plus many more profound benefits, just from spending time in nature.
With region travel open, I can’t wait to strap on the boots, load the packs, and head outdoors for the weekend exploring the expansiveness of alpine ranges, the lush ferny valley of Wilsons Prom, or the iconic beach trails of the Great Ocean Walk.
Like all adventures, these transformative experiences are best shared with friends. Who are you bringing?