Hiking and Happiness In The Digital World


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The Digital 2019 report indicates that the average person spends six hours and 42 minutes online per day, and that means they are getting far less green time than they should be. To knock the role of technology in work, social connection and entertainment is futile. The digital world is a safer one; it lets us (and others) know where we are via GPS tracking, records vital health and fitness statistics, and allows us to keep close to friends and family across the globe. However, ideally, human beings should try to strike a better balance between technology and nature. Hiking, outdoor meditation, and simply spending more time in a green place, can help you achieve this aim. As stated by nature writer Richard Louv, our mental health thrives in Nature. Being outside improves our focus, mood and motivation. It also helps us tune in to our more spiritual side. 


Spirituality And Happiness


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There is a ‘secret ingredient’ in spirituality that makes people happier - as found in research published in the American Sociological Review. This ingredient, say researchers, is social connection - the kind you can enjoy when you take a camping break with family, enjoy a wildlife encounter, or organize a hike with friends. Studies have also shown that a rich spiritual life and time spent outdoors have similar effects on children. One study, published by researchers at the University of British Columbia, found that children who have meaning in their lives and who develop deep relationships are happier than those who do not. That is, they don’t need to attend church to benefit from spirituality; they can find this sense of closeness in the wide open spaces of the world’s many green and snowy trails in the company of friends and loved ones.


Nature And Human Health


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There are many paths to a richer spiritual life. In fact, Harvard researchers have found that the millennial generation is as likely to find a sense of spiritual connection in a CrossFit class as their parents are to find it in church or in the Great Outdoors. Backpacking through the lush green wilderness is the ideal setting in which to feel like part of something ‘greater than oneself.’ For one, it calms the mind and leaves us more open to contemplation. Studies have shown that nature drops stress hormone levels in a dramatic fashion - so much so that just 10 minutes in a green or blue area can lessen the effects of physical and mental stress and boost one’s happiness levels. Can you imagine how beneficial hiking regularly can be? Too much stress can cause everything from weight gain to depression, and even chronic conditions like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Therefore, embracing the natural world can play an important role both in putting us in the mood for spirituality, and in keeping us physically and mentally healthy.


Nature And Spirituality


Sunset Duplex

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From poets to philosophers, many people say it is easier to feel closer to a greater life force when they are gazing out at majestic mountains or a sparkling ocean. Indeed, many nature-centered spiritual traditions and Asian religions espouse that there is an important link between humankind and nature. The indigenous Australians also believed that ‘creator beings’ followed various ‘songlines’ across the land, creating the landscape, animals and law under which human beings were to live. Carl Jung also turned to nature for its powerful symbols of the rich spiritual life that humans house within. Nature also has plenty to teach human beings about how to balance opposing forces within and without. Many of nature’s elements - such as fire and water - are antagonistic to each other, but nature balances them out. When we camp, we can observe these processes: we can build fire, put it out responsibly, and restore balance to our surroundings. 


Experiencing Nature Fully


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One of the best things about nature is how easy it is to enjoy. From sleeping in a tent beneath a canopy of stars to taking on an energetic hike, there are many options that are accessible to people of all ages and from all walks of life. The Japanese activity called ‘shinrin yoku’, or forest bathing, simply involves heading to a beautiful green area and opening all your senses to the beauty around you - the sights, sounds, textures and smells of the forest. Doing so causes stress to plummet, but it also makes you feel like part of a powerful connection that all human beings can be part of.


Many people spend around 90% of their time indoors, hooked to their devices. Spending time outdoors and embracing hiking as a pastime can help us get fitter and lower stress levels. However, nature is also an ideal setting in which to contemplate our rich inner world. Carl Jung felt that in big cities, human beings felt increasingly small and isolated. In nature it’s the opposite, and we have the opportunity to feel vast and accompanied.




Issy Lovett

About the Author

Before starting out as a freelancer, Issy Lovett worked within the healthcare industry in various roles, but left due to increasing stress levels and mental health challenges. After talking therapy and a sabbatical, she changed her lifestyle and now writes for a living. She follows a spiritual and meditational life now and encourages others to do the same