Last week I was asked to explain why venturing into the wilderness might be conducive to good health and happiness. I hadnt really analyzed this very much, I just knew that I felt more inspired and energetic after spending time outside. This question prompted me to stop and think about what was really happening to me when I entered the natural world. I spend an hour walking in a natural setting almost every day and even longer periods of time outside on weekends. So to answer this question, I carefully observed my senses and feelings the next time I went outside. I came up with 10 great benefits.
Exercise - This is the most obvious benefit and has already been proven to increase health, reduce stress and help you live longer. An added bonus is that you dont need expensive equipment or special training.
Deep Yoga Breathing - This occurs on the uphills and when you increase your pace. Deep breathing relaxes muscles and helps you get into a meditative state. Your whole body becomes intoxicated with life-giving oxygen.
Colour Therapy - Every season is different - beautiful shades of every colour meet the eye. Have you ever been annoyed by any colour combination in nature? I doubt it.
Aromatherapy - The latest rage and understandably so. Just breathe deeply and smell those wonderful pine and spruce scents, juniper, roses or cottonwood in spring.
Sound Therapy - Soothing sounds of nature - water gurgling, birds singing, wind rustling or maybe if youre lucky the rare state of absolute silence.
Connection to the earth - The more time you spends outside the more a you realize that it is The Earth, and nothing else that maintains our life! A respect and awe for the planet becomes unavoidable. The balance we see in the natural world reminds us that balance in our lives is necessary too.
Magnetic Therapy - A lot of people are finding that magnets are helping with health problems. Our planet is one big electromagnet and its no wonder that with the interference of concrete, electrical wires and buildings that the earths natural magnetic power is unavailable to us most days. One solution is to get away from it all and lay down on the earth. Rejuvenate your body with its magnetic force.
Solitude - A walk by yourself may be the only solitude available to you. Its a time to just be with yourself and your own thoughts. Its a time to be creative, think or not think, or even see a solution to a problem more clearly. It might be a time to visualize what you really want in life.
Social - If you find yourself alone too frequently, then a walk with a friend is a great way to connect with someone you care about. Not only do you have a chance to visit with each other but you both get all the other benefits mentioned.
Theres something bigger than me - Its pretty hard to ignore the feeling that there is something very much bigger than ourselves when observing the natural world. Call it what you may - you will definitely experience it if you spend enough time introducing yourself to the earth.
Longer wilderness trips provide opportunities for a more profound and deeper experience. Personal transformations and shifts in attitudes and beliefs can occur in a variety of ways. I will let others tell their stories of how each of them came away with something more than just a holiday.....
Sense of Accomplishment
My photos will forever be symbol of a personal achievement. Little thought did I put into how much effort I would have to exert to do the 4 day hike. A sure sense of accomplishment and pride. This trip has had a profound impact on my attitude and outlook on my life - for my future. It was incredible to say the least and truly inspirational. (first time hiker)
Time to Assess Life
This trip meant a new beginning for me. I had lots of time to assess how I am living my life. I was quite proud of myself that I was able to pull away from my family and experience something so new and exciting. (2 week trip over passes, through jungles and on lakes)
Given the incredible hike, the scenery, the glaciers, the rain theres still one more bonus to all this...I am learning to live a different way. (backpacking trip in the Yukon)
This trip was really a neat experience. We went out into the world, we stayed together, we held hands.
(sea kayaking trip on the Charlottes)
The food was awesome, the company superb, the hikes beautiful. It was a chance for me to marvel at this beautiful country we live in and to feel close to the earth. (backpacking trip in the Rockies)
Joy and Balance
I have slowly come to realize that without the hurt in ones life there can be no real understanding of joy. That joy can be such simple things - the majesty of those mountains, the awe of Machu Picchu, the delight taken by eleven women in each others company, little childrens laughing eyes, the sheer determination to make it up over Dead Womans Pass, the soul touching music of the Andes, and the guides soft voices trying to make us aware of their proud history. That is joy. We have all learned about Ayni - the balance of life and we will try to incorporate more of this into our own lives.(a full time explorer of the outdoors)
The power of the natural world can soothe, inspire, heal and refresh. And you dont have to go far to find it. But I believe the real value in re-connecting to our true mother - the earth, is that she will have a better chance of survival. Then she can teach us to expand the definition of who we are and how we are connected to the enormous circle of life. Only then can real and lasting change take place.