How Hiking Helps Me With My Depression

I have really allowed myself to be vulnerable and opening up about personal and private things that I’ve always, and typically kept to myself. But, it’s been easier to talk about depression and mental illness lately so, as I said before, I’m doing this for others, and I hope to learn from my own admissions as well.

So yes, I have depression. Situational Depression to be exact. It is exhausting and leaves me very susceptible to extreme cases of self-doubt, insecurity, instability, rage, sadness, despair and many other feelings that culminate with me blaming myself for just about everything.

Situational Depression is very different from Clinical Depression. Clinical Depression or CD, is medically diagnosed and treated with medication, talk therapy, or a combination of both. Situational Depression, can be self-managed, and can last for an hour or a few days, depending on the circumstances. (or situations)

Does Hiking Cure Depression?
I treat my depression by being active! I spend a lot of time in my garden, I hike, I bike, I write (as you can see) I dabble with a little Minecraft, and of course, spend time with my wonderful and amazing children, doing basically whatever it is they want to do. (LOL)

My favorite thing to do for myself is Hiking and spending time in the woods.

I consider myself a Nature-Man, a Survivalist and others call me HikeMasterJ, that is my alter-ego, who will not be speaking with you today. Next blog, maybe.

Hiking is therapeutic in many ways and can be used as a primary exercise activity or it can be added to any work out regimen. Hiking is great for your legs, your butt and your joints, not many specific exercises, target each of those at once.

In Japanese culture, spending time in the woods with nature is called, “Shinrin-Yoku” or Forest Bathing. Through this practice, you literally take in the natural atmosphere around you. The air, the sounds, the smells are all present to help me detach from whatever is troubling me and focus on being better to myself, for myself.

Before I go into the woods, I think of the Matrix. I feel like I am leaving the “system” behind, and I’m an unplugging and going into the real world. I detach from steel and stone, electricity, noise, and all the social atrocities’ that come with being connected to the grid. When I’m in nature, I’m off the grid and I like it that way. If I’m with a group, I know that I have a responsibility to them to make sure we all get out safely, however, when I’m alone, I free myself and my mind and allow the forest to envelop me and wrap me into a timeless and limitless euphoria that only nature can create.

I listen to the hundreds of birds, the thousands of insects, the wind through the trees, the crunching earth beneath my feet, it’s almost musical, rhythmic and cosmic, connecting to the Earth by touching leaves and tasting edible plants. Discovering new paths and remembering old ones.

There are times when it’s just me and the Sun, me and the trees and, I even accept the bugs too. This is all to say that being in nature, helps me with my form of depression, it always elevates my oxytocin, dopamine, endorphins and serotonin levels. To me, it’s the best exercise, it cleanses your pores, and your soul at the same time.

When I leave the forest, I feel refreshed. I know that I left everything out on the trail. Blood, sweat, tears, it’s all a process. I’m sure there are forms of depression that can be managed by increasing your time in nature, Situational and Seasonal Affective Disorder, are a couple of them.

I am grateful to the hundreds of people who have spent time with me in nature, helping me heal myself and I hope that you have been able to heal yourselves as well.

I think I’ll make a conscious and deliberate effort to spend more and more time in the woods, it’s my therapy, it’s my church, it’s my safe space…it’s my Zion.

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Spending time in nature appears to mitigate the effects of stressful life events on perceived stress, and negative affects while synergizing with physical activity to improve positive affect and mental well-being”.

 

 

 

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