There are many known physical benefits of hiking, such as improved muscular fitness, lower risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and improved cardio-respiratory fitness. But did you know that hiking can also help you mentally and even spiritually?
If you are having trouble connecting with yourself, the world, and God you may want to try taking up hiking. It gives you space from the real world – no phones, family, work or drama will follow you. You can learn how to be mindful and alive in the moment during your hike and truly appreciate the sights and scents around you. You don’t have to be an all-star athlete to hike, either. A simple trail at your local park can be a great place to start!
If you need a spiritual breakthrough, here's why hiking will help!
The Beauty of Nature
Hiking is undoubtedly one of the best ways to celebrate nature. Climbing up mountains, over hills, strolling along plains and getting lost in the forest provides great opportunities to get in touch with nature. It provides us with a reminder of how small we are, and how beautiful and vast the world really is!
Can you believe that God created nature for us? He gave us these gorgeous areas of land for us to explore. On your hike, take a moment to thank God for the world He made for you.
Feel God’s Presence
Unlike a busy city, hiking makes you want to engage all of your senses. Once you've been hiking for a time, that pesky internal monologue fades away and you begin to take more notice of your surroundings. How does the breeze feel against your skin? What can you hear? When did the leaves start to change color? It makes you feel connected to yourself and to the earth. Taking all of the beautiful sights in can help you feel God’s presence. Many hikers have said they have felt God in the air as they continue their hiking practice. It lets you forget about what is going on in your life and instead lets you focus on your connection to God.
Quite Time and Space from Everyday Life
Physical distance from your everyday life also provides you with a mental and emotional break. This distance is needed to momentarily place aside the pressures of constantly trying to balance work, relationships, friendships, finances and health. If you are living in a hectic area, have little munchkins running around, or are in a busy workplace – the silence of nature will let you take a moment to breathe.
You can come to some important self-realizations whilst wondering! If you have a difficult problem you are facing in life, a hike can help you relax and connect with your mind in a safe space. Alternatively, you can let your thoughts dance from the mundane to the ludicrous. Daydreaming is a fun way to let your brain relax and enjoy the moment. That’s okay too, because both are necessary! Both, regardless, require an amount of space though.
Relieves Stress and Makes You Happier
The average person is beyond stressed each day, which can lead to some terrible health problems and an overall dissatisfaction with life. However, studies have shown that being among nature is a great stress reliever and can help lower incidences of depression. The findings of a particular 2014 study suggested that group outdoor walks "may not only improve someone's daily positive emotions but may also contribute a non-pharmacological approach to serious conditions like depression."
When you are less stressed and happier, you can make a larger impact on the world. You have more energy to use the spiritual gifts that God has given you. Do you feel a calling to serve others at a soup kitchen? By being a more relaxed person, you will be able to connect with the people you serve on a deeper level. Alternatively, hikes will also help you relax from the sadness you may feel from seeing others suffering.
A happier you will lead to a closer connection with yourself, your relationships, and God.
Become Mindful and Meditative
Hiking can help you build a stronger relationship with God! During a hike, you can practice mindful walking, also known as walking meditation, which is a technique that incorporates the concept of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is 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.
Before you go on a hike, you can also dedicate a devotional to reflect upon during your exploration. Did you feel God lifting you up? Did you converse with Him on the ideas you had? After the hike, you can journal about ideas you meditated on while walking. Keep this handy for when you need a pick-me-up spiritually during the week.