Empower the Nature Explorer in you

By Husain Khambaty – Cape Schanck

One of the brilliant gifts this world gives us is the ability to explore the land. In today’s fast-paced and digitally dominated world, where screens have become our constant companions, it’s more important than ever to reconnect with the great outdoors. Hiking in nature is not just a leisurely activity; it’s a powerful tool for nurturing both mental and physical health, especially for today’s youth. I use this blog to capture and explore the myriad benefits of hiking in nature and why it should be at the top of every person’s to-do list.

Living in Australia for me has been a remarkable opportunity from an exploration perspective. Speaking from a local point of view, Victoria has some brilliant landscapes, forests, beaches, caves, trails and whatnot to explore. The other states also have some brilliant places to explore and I hope to visit them some day.

Torna Trek in Maharashtra – Credits : Husain Khambaty

My primary experience to hiking before exploring Australia has been in India. Coming from the state of Maharashtra (India) where not only do we have the Western Ghats to wander about but some brilliant Forts to explore. Some of the terrains provide a challenge for the extreme. The north of India in Himachal also provide some brilliant hikes such as the Har-ki-dun Trek (Valley of God), Roopkund Trek, Stok Kangri Trek or the infamous Chadar Trek. I have in my previous blog spoken strongly on the behavioural changes one goes through while hiking and exploring. With this blog, I would like to focus on a deeper inward look at why this is so important today especially in times of mental health crisis and physical health epidemics.

Stress Reduction

One of the most immediate and noticeable benefits of hiking in nature is its ability to reduce stress levels. People today often face a barrage of stressors, from academic pressures, work stress, relationship issues or social comparisons. The simple act of stepping into the wilderness, surrounded by trees, birds, and the gentle rustling of leaves, can have a profound calming effect.

Studies have shown that spending time in nature decreases cortisol levels (the stress hormone), lowers blood pressure, and promotes a sense of relaxation. When you’re out on a trail, away from the noise and distractions of daily life, your mind has a chance to reset and recharge.

Improved Mental Health

Hiking isn’t just about physical health; it has a profound impact on mental well-being. In todays times, people often grapple with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, hiking can be a lifeline. Being in nature has been linked to increased feelings of happiness and reduced symptoms of depression.

When you hike, your brain releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. The combination of physical activity and the beauty of the natural world can create a sense of euphoria known as the “hiker’s high.” Moreover, the solitude and serenity of the wilderness provide an opportunity for introspection and self-discovery, which can be particularly beneficial for young people navigating the challenges of adolescence.

Enhanced Physical Fitness

In an era where sedentary activities often dominate a person’s day, hiking offers an engaging and enjoyable way to improve physical fitness. Hiking is a full-body workout that strengthens muscles, increases cardiovascular endurance, and burns calories. It engages core muscles, legs, and even helps improve balance.

Unlike traditional workouts in a gym, hiking doesn’t feel like a chore. It’s an adventure waiting to happen, and the rewards are both physical and mental. As people today increasingly struggle with health issues related to inactivity, hiking can be a gateway to a healthier lifestyle.

Connection to the Natural World

Today’s youth are growing up in an increasingly urbanized and disconnected world. Many have never experienced the wonder of a starry night sky or the thrill of spotting wildlife in its natural habitat. Hiking provides an opportunity to connect with the natural world on a profound level.

When young people immerse themselves in nature, they gain an appreciation for the environment and a desire to protect it. This connection fosters a sense of stewardship and responsibility for the planet, which is crucial in an age where environmental concerns are paramount.

Digital Detox

Constant connectivity to screens and social media can take a toll on mental health. Hiking offers a much-needed digital detox. It’s a chance to unplug, silence notifications, and break free from the cycle of constant distraction. This has always been one of the primary factors driving me to hiking and exploration. When you’re on a hiking trail, your smartphone becomes a camera and a GPS, rather than a portal to the digital world.

This break from screens allows young people to be present in the moment, savor the beauty around them, and engage in meaningful conversations with fellow hikers. It’s a refreshing break from the never-ending stream of information and a reminder that life exists beyond the virtual realm.

Your Thoughts?

I am very keen to know your thoughts – both supportive and critical ones. Use the comment section below.

Thanks again for reading.

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