Hiking Health Benefit: Happiness and Decreased Depression
Living a happier, healthier lifestyle may come with simply hitting the trail. Something about that fresh air paired with beautiful scenes of the natural world around you can do wonders on your mental health.
We previously looked at the habits of genuinely happy people, and among them included active habits including walking briskly. Dr. Chris Aiken, an Instructor in Clinical Psychiatry at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Director of Mood Treatment Center discussed how walking briskly, raising your heart rate by at least 10 beats per minute is proven to increase people’s happiness. He also went on to note, “Extremely happy people engage in regular activity which connects them to other people to a cause outside themselves,” explains Dr. Aiken. “It doesn't have to be a grand cause–the brain is just as happy to improve a local playground as it is to find a cure for cancer. What matters is that the cause is meaningful to you and helps you get you out of your own head.”
And hiking can do just that, get you outside your own head, and engulf you in your natural surroundings. One specific study, published by a Suicide Prevention Research Program at Paracelsus Medical University in Salzburg, Austria tested a group of people who have attempted suicide at least once.. They began with a 9-week hiking phase, followed by a 9-week control phases. The results found that within the hiking face there was a significant decrease in hopelessness, depression, and a significant increase in endurance. The conclusion was that hiking served as a meaningful add-on therapy, especially for those suffering from depression and high-level suicide risk. It inspired those to lead more active lifestyles, and with a more active lifestyle comes increased mental health and happiness.
New York-based Dr. Marina Gafanovich discussed another study which found a group of 36 people who walked for over 40 minutes immediately experienced a decrease in tension, anxiety, and blood pressure levels. This was found regardless of the speed the participants walked at.
Hiking promotes a healthy, active lifestyle that can keep you smiling. This free activity is the perfect way to get outside and enjoy life to its fullest.