9 Reasons You Need More Hiking In Your Life

9 Reasons You Need More Hiking In Your Life

Why you need to spend more time outdoors and how it can drastically improve your life.

Hiking and being outdoors is not only refreshing, but extremely rewarding. There are countless benefits of spending time outdoors and in the wilderness. We all need to take the time to reap the emotional, mental, and physical benefits from adventuring out into the mountains.

1. It's a mood booster.

Being outdoors and hiking is a well-known stress reliever. There are no worries in the forest -- just wide-open space and few people. When you're feeling anxious or stressed, get up and get outside. Completing a hike can be a total confidence-booster. Hiking can be a very empowering experience, especially when you conquer the hardest trails and reach your destination. It will elevate your mood and make you feel better no matter what demons you may be facing. This is one of the most positive and natural ways to cope with anxiety and stress. Nature doesn't care about what you look like, how much money you have, how much education and knowledge you have, what your career is, or any other aspect of your life. The best part about being outdoors is that you don't have to worry about what anyone else thinks of you; you can just be your 100% authentic self.

2. Exercise.

The great thing about getting outside is that there are so many different activities you can choose from, and every single outdoor activity can be scaled down to fit one's needs. You don't have to be an expert hiker to get outside. Start with what you have and with what you know and you will improve from there. Hiking is a great exercise and individuals of all fitness levels can participate. Start off with a shorter hike with less elevation, take your time and enjoy your surroundings. The more often you hike, the more confident you will be with the more challenging trails. The most important thing is getting outside and enjoying yourself.

3. Fresh air.

Fresh air is good for the soul. Once you're deep enough into the woods, there's a certain smell and freshness to the air that you can't find anywhere else. Being away from people and surrounded by the forest is a calming feeling. There's a quietness about nature that brings an overwhelming sense of peace. You get the chance to clear your mind and decompress. Rejuvenate your body and soul and take a moment to relax, let go of your insecurities and worries. Just be.

4. You learn to settle into your surroundings.

After I moved from my hometown where I've lived my entire life to a new city, one of the first things I did was get out and explore. Being in a new place and not knowing anybody or anything can be extremely daunting. It doesn't matter if you've lived somewhere for five years or five weeks; there are so many beautiful things to see and places to explore. By simply getting outside and taking in your surroundings, you can feel more connected to your environment and community as a whole.

5. It's a great way to connect with others.

Hiking can strengthen relationships and bring families and friends closer together. Instead of going out to lunch or go shopping with your family, pack everyone up and hit a trail. Everyone knows making friends can be hard, but when you and others both enjoy being outside and exploring, you can bond over your love of the earth and outdoors. I have made great friends and created stronger bonds with my family members by simply spending time outdoors together.

6. It's easily accessible.

Hiking is virtually free. You don't need fancy gear or equipment and you don't have to be an expert on the outdoors. There are numerous recreation passes and permits that need to be purchased for parking at certain trailheads. If that's your biggest expense, then $30 a year doesn't seem too excessive for all that you gain from the mountains. If $30 isn't in your budget, split it with some friends and family; you can put multiple license plate numbers on the permit. The money spent on recreation passes goes into the forest fund and they use this money for trail maintenance and other projects. For the most part, all you have to do is get to a trailhead and start walking. Just be sure to quickly educate yourself on how to have a safe and successful hike, and you're good to go.

7. You get a break from reality.

These days, we have smart phones and tablets loaded with social media apps. We are constantly texting, emailing, calling, FaceTiming, tweeting, Facebooking, Snapchatting and everything in between. Being away from cell service and the internet is extremely freeing. When you're outside and away from all of the distractions in life, it gives you time to contemplate and meditate. While hiking back down a trail, I always try to slow down and take in my surroundings, because the moment you get back to your car and drive home, you slip back into the busyness of life.

8. You gain independence.

Whether you're hiking, biking or walking, there are so many different activities that you can do independently. Learning how to enjoy time alone and away from others is extremely important because in the end, all you have is yourself. Spend time outside and learn more about yourself; be sure to take the time to find some clarity from within. Solo-hikes are a great way to familiarize yourself with nature. It's a warming feeling to journey deep into the woods alone and rely solely on yourself and your instincts.

9. Nature's beauty.

There are millions of trails on this planet waiting to be explored. The average life expectancy for Americans is about 80 years old, which translates to about 4,171 weeks, 29,200 days and 42,048,000 minutes. As cliche as it sounds, life is short. Enjoy all of the beauty that this world has to offer while you still can. Don't forget that our time here is limited and you choose how you spend each minute of every day. I encourage you to slow down and spend more time outdoors and don't take your time on earth for granted. Learning to be comfortable in your own skin, to be confident in your skills and capabilities and learning how to unapologetically be yourself are some of the benefits of spending time in the wilderness. You feel a sense of home and belonging when you're out in nature. Take in this feeling and apply it to your everyday life, and spread it to those you meet and better the entire planet. There's so much beauty in this world -- all you have to do is look around.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” – John Muir

Cover Image Credit: Madison Jones

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An Open Letter To My Dog In Heaven

You're so incredibly loved and missed.

You have been there every day for so long. I woke up and went to bed every day knowing you were there and would still be there when I awoke the next morning. You never failed to greet me with an ecstatic wagging tail and an adorable toothy smile whenever I walked into the room. I missed you every single second that we weren't together. We have been the best of friends since the day we met, and our bond has only strengthen throughout the years.

However, as I grew older, so did you. As I was able to do more, you were able to do less. I was able to drive, go to the movies on my own, and apply to college. But you, you couldn't jump as high anymore, you couldn't run as fast as you used to, you couldn't swim as much as you would have liked. Even when your abilities declined, you still remained the happiest pup I had ever met and would continue to always try your hardest to make me happy.

Then the day came. That dreadful, dreadful day. The day where I had to watch you take your last breath as I laid by your side, the day where I had to watch the vet take away the best friend that I had ever known. As horrible as that moment was, and as sad as I still am, I am at peace.

I am at peace because I know that you are in a much, much better place. I know that as soon as you took your last breath here on Earth, God swept your beautiful, innocent soul from the ground and flew you to Heaven. I know that you have gained your furry little wings that you so rightfully deserve, and I am proud that I was able to know and love such an amazing little angel as you.

As I am still here on Earth, I can't say that I know what Heaven above is like for you, but I hope that you are truly having the time of your life. I hope that you are surrounded by perfectly green meadows filled with colorful flowers and blanketed by the bluest skies and the brightest rays of sunshine. I hope that you have hundreds of different lakes, ponds, streams, and even oceans to swim in as much as your sweet little heart pleases. I hope that you have already met with all of our relatives up there and that they give you endless treats and belly rubs, since I no longer can. I hope that all of your pain and suffering has vanished, allowing you to be the young, energetic pup that you once were and have been longing to be for so long now.

Even though we are no longer physically together anymore, you will forever remain in my heart and soul. You were a blessing sent from above, and now, God needs you back. Thank you for completing me and teaching me important life lessons; I will carry you with me everywhere I go until we meet again. I love you, my guardian angel.

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How To Care For Strays During The Winter

We love our pets but our love should spread to more than our own.

If it's cold for you under your blanket then it's probably cold for a small animal outside. Some animals do what it takes to survive. They search for food, water, and shelter all day. Here are ways to make it a little easier for them.

Warm Shelters

Small animals like to sleep under the hood of cars to be near warm engines. Make sure to knock hard on your car before starting it up. Leave some shelters outside with hay or bedding for a safer shelter. Keep the shelter away from where the wind is coming from and leave it in places the sun hits the most.
If you live where there aren't many trees then resistant mowing the lawn or cutting bushes down. These areas can be used to protect animals who need extra warmth for nursing mothers or newborn babies. By leaving the task of tidying your garden borders and shrubs until early spring, a shelter can be provided for insects throughout winter.

Food And Water

The way to keep warm is to save as many calories as possible. Give animals they're own respective food choices. Take some of that money that was supposed to be for another string of lights and buy small bags of seeds and crackers for birds and small rodents. Don't continue this after the weather warms or leave out a huge amount of food. Animals can become dependent and this is only meant to aid them for a while.
Leave warm water out for animals. Try spreading out various buckets throughout the day. The warm water will take care of small animals to the biggest ones in your area.
Keep in mind that animals are built to withstand certain weather changes. They will probably make it to spring on their own but the extra help is appreciated.

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