Humans had to hike so we could hunt and gather food, so we could collect wood for fires and rocks to build shelter, and so we could participate in our tribes’ great annual migrations. Hiking was critical to survival.
Today, it appears hiking in alberta is inconsequential, strictly optional. The opposite is true: hiking is now more important than ever. The world needs more hikers, because hiking makes people better people.
Hiking Makes You More Creative
Anything that gets you out – out of your home, your office, your car, out of your mundane routines, your fixation on trivial detail, out of the clutches of so-called news and shallow entertainment – makes you more creative. Most outdoor sports keep your conscious mind engaged. They can be thrilling, but they require you to fixate on technique and terrain, so they don’t let you go deep into yourself and hear your subconscious mind. Hiking, because it’s not a sport, allows you to mentally relax. Your subconscious mind becomes dominant and the subconscious is your greatest source of problem-solving creativity.
Hiking Makes You Smarter
In a recent study, a large group of randomly selected people was given a task intended to exhaust their attention capacity, then divided into three groups for a 40-minute break. Group A went walking in a local nature preserve. Group B went walking in an urban environment. Group C sat quietly and read. At the end of the break they were all given identical proofreading tests. Group A, the nature walkers, did far better on the test because hiking both relaxes and stimulates the mind.
Hiking Makes You Healthier
It’s the perfect exercise: aerobic, low impact, inexpensive, gentle on the environment, viable at any age, so simple it requires no instruction. Hiking, because you do it in natural surroundings, is more than exercise; it has the power to heal. Studies show that patients in hospital rooms with windows providing views of nature require less pain management and heal faster than patients in rooms with windows overlooking parking lots. So you can imagine what a potent healing therapy it is to actually be in those natural surroundings, hiking through them.
Hiking Makes You Calmer
Hiking quickly makes you aware of your breath. You begin paying attention to the rhythm of your breathing and breath awareness is an element of many forms of meditation. Hiking balances and centres you, and induces clarity, focus and calm. Daily doses of “green time” – time spent outdoors in natural settings – alleviate symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Hiking Improves Your Love Life
Hike with your partner, and two things will happen. First, the locust-like swarm of details, obligations and responsibilities that typically keeps buzzing around you will not follow you up the trail. You and your partner will find your awareness returns to each other. You’ll begin enjoying each other more, relaxing into your love. Second, you’ll find hiking becomes shared adventure, which sharpens you and your partner’s sense of mutual purpose. It will bond you and it will galvanize your relationship.
Hiking Makes You a Better Friend
That enormous, infinite space, the great outdoors, that you enter when you go hiking? You can bring some of that space back with you, inside you and you can offer it to others in the form of openness, empathy, patience, compassion, and simply by being a better listener, all of which will make you a much better friend.
Hiking Makes You Happier
Hiking is fun. The word fun doesn’t do it justice. When hiking, you’re admiring our planet’s grandest scenery, you’re exploring wild lands, and you’re negotiating tumultuous terrain. It makes you feel intensely alive. It brings profound joy because it’s not just your joy you’re experiencing, it’s the pleasure of the infinite spirit.
Hiking Makes You More You
The excited conversation that begins at a trailhead when friends go hiking together gradually subsides into more personal, intimate talk. Sometimes that distills into discussion of loftier ideas, but it always slides into long periods of silence. So even if you always hike with friends, you often end up hiking alone. If you can dive into that tranquility, if you can swim into that solitude, you’ll probe the depths of your soul. You’ll come away with a better understanding of who you really are and where you want to go in the larger journey of life.
Craig and Kathy Copeland are the authors of numerous guidebooks including Where Locals Hike in the Canadian Rockies, The Premier Trails in Kananaskis Country, and Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies, The Opinionated Hiking Guide. You’ll find all their books for sale on their website, hikingcamping.com, as well as at Mountain Equipment Co-op stores and Indigo-Chapters bookstores.