Hiking for the Soul
Nothing helps you connect with nature and nurture your spirit the way hiking can. Being outdoors in the wilderness far away from civilization and the hustle and bustle of every day life, breathing fresh, cleansing air and simply enjoying solitude can give you a different perspective and help you recharge your soul.
Many of the physical benefits of hiking also translate to benefits for your soul. When you feel physically rejuvenated, you naturally feel more uplifted on a mental and spiritual level. Hiking strengthens and tones your body while feeding your soul, say authors and wellness experts Susan Smith Jones and Wayne W. Dyer in their book, “The Joy Factor.” Breathing fresh air purifies your body and promotes increased oxygen intake. Walking on different terrains, pushing through steep inclines and climbing promote cardiovascular fitness and endurance. The feeling of accomplishment that comes from tackling a difficult hike helps you connect to nature and the larger world around you and promotes physical well-being.
Being in a natural surrounding can help you obtain a clearer, fresh perspective on any problems you may currently be dealing with or worrying about. Hiking provides you with a mental distraction — you’re exposed to a variety of flora and fauna, new sensations, smells, sounds and sights that can help you temporarily forget your problems. Even if hiking trails are not very far from civilization, they can still give you the feeling that you’re somewhat removed from the rest of the world. And as with any physical activity, hiking promotes the release of certain brain chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, that can help you feel better and may even reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.
Soul experiences often include feelings of being connected to others. Hiking with a partner or a group can provide social benefits that enhance or promote benefits for your soul. By enjoying an outdoor experience with others, you interact not only with your environment but with your hiking partners as well. Everyone needs to feel loved and supported, and enjoying an experience in nature with others can help you feel less isolated and provide an opportunity for affiliation, social support, intimacy and group bonding, according to John Davis of Naropa University and School of Lost Borders.
Hiking can help you connect with your idea of the Divine. During a hike, you can practice mindful walking, also known as walking meditation, which is a technique that incorporates the concept of mindfulness — or being in the present moment. You pay attention to your breath and focus on bodily sensations. You become aware of your soul’s intention to connect with something larger than itself by sensing the majesty and wonder of nature.
by Ashley Miller