Life today is nonstop. Between work, family obligations, and the barrage of technology constantly demanding our attention, most of us live in a state of chronic stress. While some stress in life is normal and even healthy, chronic stress takes a toll both mentally and physically. Finding ways to press pause, get away from the grind of daily life, and recharge is critical for wellbeing. One of the best ways to reduce stress and rejuvenate both body and mind is to take a hiking trip.
Getting out into nature inherently reduces stress. The sights, sounds, and smells of the outdoors have a calming effect, lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones. Leaving technology behind and focusing your attention on the trail and natural surroundings gives your brain a break from sensory overload. Numerous studies show that time spent outdoors relieves anxiety, improves mood, and enhances focus and creativity.
Hiking provides a complete mind-body workout. The physical exertion required tones your body, builds strength and endurance, and boosts energy levels. Hiking up and down hills, navigating uneven terrain, and carrying your gear give your heart and lungs an excellent cardiovascular workout. The moderate pace of hiking lets you enjoy the scenery around you while raising your heart rate enough to release feel-good endorphins. Getting enough vitamin D from the sun also naturally elevates your mood. Your brain gets a workout too as you carefully choose your path and navigate the terrain, enhancing brain connectivity.
Adding a multi-day hiking trip allows you to completely unplug and immerse yourself in nature. Disconnecting from technology and your normal daily responsibilities for more than a day has tremendous power to reduce stress and mental fatigue. With no emails to check, calls to return or chores to do, your mind is free to fully recharge. Spending multiple days outdoors allows you to sync your circadian rhythms to the natural cycle of sunlight and darkness,improving sleep on the trip and after you return home. Combining the exertion of hiking with deep relaxation at night leads to remarkably rejuvenating rest.
Depending on your location and desired activity level, there are nearly endless hiking adventures to choose from. Start by deciding if you want a challenging backcountry trek or a more leisurely walk through beautiful scenery. For backcountry trips, research permits, recommended experience levels,and what to pack. National and state parks offer a wide range of marked hiking trails ranging from easy day hikes to multi-day backpacking routes. Guided tours are also available if you prefer hiking with an expert. Wherever you go, make sure to pack light, layer for changing weather, and bring plenty of water and snacks to fuel your hike.
Once you choose your destination, leave the planning and daily grind behind. Part of the magic of a hiking trip is enjoying the present moment and forgetting your worries for a while. Pay attention to your breathing and the sensations in your body as you walk. Pause frequently to soak up beautiful views, listen for birdsong or the sound of a rushing stream. At night, stargaze and appreciate the unclouded night sky free from light pollution. Disconnecting from technology helps you disconnect from stress and anxiety and reconnect with yourself.
After a few days of breathing fresh air, rewarding yourself with spectacular views, eating nourishing food, and getting great sleep, you’ll return home feeling restored. A hiking trip clears away the mental clutter, boosts your mood and energy levels, and reminds you of what’s most important. The renewed perspective and heightened creativity you gain will benefit all areas of your life. Make time to get away, reduce stress, and recharge out on the trail. You’ll come back a happier, healthier version of yourself.