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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To The Pup I Wish I Could Hold One More Time

You don't realize how much enjoyment you get out of filling up a food bowl until you no longer need to do it.

Honestly, what did we do to deserve our pets?

If you're lucky, your furry little friend is with you for a good amount of time. Or in my case, you literally grow up before their eyes.

Over the years, they see you at your highest and lowest moments without an ounce of judgment. There is nothing like coming home to an excited puppy that makes you feel as if you're the greatest thing to have graced this earth.

As life goes on, we sometimes forget our pets are aging just like we are. I don't know why, but I guess I always had this thought that my puppy was like Santa and could live forever. Unfortunately, the time for my pup to spread his love somewhere other than our house quickly came upon us. This place is what I would like to call "puppy heaven."

For others who have lost their furry companion, I'm so sorry. I never knew a dog could become such a big part of your life and family that you feel as if your world is ending when it is their time go to.

The heartache is severe, but the memories will live on forever. I think we can all agree, no other pet could ever compare to the first. As I take time to reflect on my time with my dog, I realize he taught me more than I ever could have imagined.

First being, forgive and forget.

Life is too short to hold a grudge. Let it go. We spend so much time and energy being mad over problems that in the big picture are so minuscule. Think about it, how many times did you yell at your dog for doing something they weren't supposed to do? Were their feelings hurt? Of course, but they still loved you. They still decided to snuggle next to on the couch instead of sitting in their cage just to be near you.

Always be there for someone when they need you.

Although they can't talk, they're the best listeners. I can proudly admit there were MANY times when I put my pup on my bed and just cried for hours. But you know what the best part was? Shadow always knew when I was upset about something. I'm convinced animals know how you're feeling before you do. They're going to give you all of the love you need at that moment.

I've learned it's important to help someone when they're down because someday you'll need them to do it for you. Within the final year of Shadow's life, this came into play more than ever. My family and I suddenly noticed how difficult it was for him to get up on his own two feet. It broke my heart. He looked so helpless. But for every minute he paused his life for us, we had to do the same for him. No matter how many times we helped him, it could never equal all of the times he helped us.

Family comes first.

Seriously though. Cherish everyone in your life. Shadow showed me the true definition of unconditional love. Yes, you get frustrated with each other, but the love is always there. He was always so happy to be with us whether it was one-on-one or all of us together.

You don't realize how much enjoyment you get out of filling up a food bowl until you no longer need to do it. Our pets become such a significant part of our day's for years on end. Now, we feel as lost as they do when we leave them home for a weekend alone.

Needless to say, the house is much quieter now, and it makes you miss the times you would beg your pup to stop barking every time the mailman came by.

A guess a takeaway message from all of this would be to appreciate the little things in life. We spend so much time running around and stressing ourselves out while our dogs are so content with a treat after going to the bathroom. Slow it down.

Recently I saw a post about a 6-year-old's answer as to why dogs don't live as long as people. The response gave me a sense of closure. For those of you feeling the same pain, I hope it gives you some too.

"People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life. Like loving everybody all of the time, and being nice. Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long."

To my "little man" and our "unconditional lover boy" up in heaven, I hope there are endless amounts of belly rubs and treats for you. You were the best pup I could have ever asked for. I hope you knew how loved you were and still are.

We will miss you every day for the rest of our lives. Rest in Peace, little guy.

Cover Image Credit: Jamie Burton

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If You're Not Volunteering At An Animal Shelter Already, You Should Be

I may come back covered in dirt and fur, but it's worth it.

I've always heard that volunteering at an animal shelter was super rewarding. I volunteered at my local animal shelter back home for about two weeks when I was younger, so I didn't get too much out of it besides being excited that I was always around dogs.

Now that I am volunteering at The Humane Society of West Alabama, a NO KILL shelter, here in Tuscaloosa just about every day, I can say that I feel fulfilled and proud to be a volunteer.

Every day I wake up at 8:00 a.m., eat my breakfast, take my dog out and drive 15 minutes to the "cathouse" shelter for the HSWA to help out. I'm assigned a room (I typically work with the kitten room, eek!) and then I sweep, mop, scoop out litter boxes, change out blankets and beds, and of course, play with the babies. Currently, there are eight cats in the kitten room.

They range from a few weeks old to almost a year. The kitten room is so much fun because they're ready for attention at ALL times. My favorite is Carlos because he reaches his arms up asking for a hug EVERY DAY. Y'all, I can't.

The cool thing about the HSWA is that all of the cats are free to roam. You never know if you'll find one of the cats in a cat "tree", in a bed, laying in a litter box (yes, it's a thing) or just curled up in a window sill.There's also a patio room for the cats, which we call the catio. Get it?!

I haven't started fully volunteering at the "doghouse" yet, but the few times I've been so far has been exhilarating. These dogs usually come from places of abuse or neglectful situations, and they are SO HAPPY to see you every time.

I take them out in their particular playgroups, pick up poop, have fun in the sandbox, you name it! Once it gets hot enough, I can't wait to bring them a kid pool to splash around in! The HSWA also makes it a point to work on crate and house training while the animals are there.

www.humanesocietyofwa.org and fill out an adoption application. Adopt, don't shop!

Cover Image Credit: Morgan Moore

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