Why Does Hiking Help Those in Recovery
People like to say that hiking isn’t good for everyone. Not everyone is made to experience the great outdoors or any outdoors at all. Suburban and urban life with man planted parks and natural areas are enough for some people. Even the most begrudging nature non-enthusiasts have the tendency to be transformed by a truly beautiful hiking. Walking through nature is nothing new. In fact, there were many of thousands of years where hiking wasn’t even a thing- it was just called surviving on planet earth. J
ohn Muir was a pioneer for the spirituality of hiking. Many authors during the romantic period in American history also wrote about the splendor and spiritual experience of truly connecting with nature. To be one with nature, so many of these philosophical minds propose, is to be one with yourself.
According to research, hiking helps you be more in your oneness with your brain. Collective Evolution writes about the way hiking actually changes your brain for the better. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study on how spending time in nature can decrease negative and obsessive thinking.
Two groups of participants were tasked with walking for 90 minutes in either a natural or urban environment. Walking through the “natural environment” of an urban setting did not have an effect on reducing ruminating thoughts. Many other studies have suggested that even in urban environments, being near nature like plants or trees is enough to boost wellness. For the group that had 90 minutes to walk through nature, there were “…reported lower levels of rumination and they also had reduced neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain related to mental illness.”
Additionally, researchers found an undeniable correlation between the amount of time one spends in an urban setting and instances of depression as well as other mental illnesses.
How Can You Hike?
Despite the poetic words of John Muir, to some the mountains are not calling; therefore, they do not feel that they should go. Becoming a hiker can mean sore feet, sore legs, and a lot of sweating. Start by taking long walks through your neighborhood or around a local park. If your friends aren’t into hiking, find a local meetup group.
Most adventure retailers or outdoor retailers have communities which go on hikes and adventures together. For a truly liberating experience, take yourself to a hike alone. Make sure to stay safe by carrying extra water and a whistle.
Hiking is part of the integrative curriculum at Lakehouse Recovery Center. Our prime location in the hidden hills of southern California on the shores of Lake Sherwood surround us with many opportunities to be immersed in nature. Let your path to recovery start here. For more information or to schedule a tour, call 877.762.3707.