“The trail gives you what you need.”
Jennifer Pharr Davis, Appalachian Trail record holder, National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, hiker, educator, author, wife and mom, says this phrase often. I interviewed Pharr Davis for this blog and will write about that interview for my next blog.
But this writing is about healing in nature.
Hate came to Pittsburgh recently when 11 lovely folks were gunned down in my hometown, murdered as they worshipped.
It hit all of us right in the gut.
I didn’t personally know any of the victims, but my heart ached for their families and friends. I also ached for my hometown, known as Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, this wasn’t supposed to happen here. It wasn’t supposed to happen anywhere.
Like many others, I felt heart-broken and the day of the horrible event, I couldn’t pull myself away from the TV. I dressed to go on a hike, but never went.
The next day, I dragged myself out the door with my husband for a training hike, dragging the key word as I felt like my heart was on the floor.
A few days later, I just couldn’t shake the tears and again, forced myself outside. As I traversed my usual 5.1-mile hike, I began to feel some solace. I felt like I was breathing for the first time in days.
“The trail gives you what you need.” Jennifer’s words rang in my head.
We often think of the physical benefits of hiking. We know it makes us stronger, builds our muscles, our lungs, slims us down. It helps us stay young and healthy.
But hiking is also good for our mental health.
“Research shows that hiking has a positive impact on combating the symptoms of stress and anxiety,” Gregory Miller, PhD, president of the American Hiking Society, has said, “Being in nature is ingrained in our DNA, and we sometimes forget that.”
Sometimes, just a change in our surroundings can change our mood. “Unplugging” from social media, television, and the phone – yes, leave your phone on silent in your backpack – helps.
There are several good articles about the benefits of hiking for our mental health, including this one. You don’t need to read though, to know that it helps you feel better to get out and see the beauty of nature, breath deep for some fresh thoughts. Try it the next time you are down.
Where is your favorite hiking spot for mental health renewal?