Have you been considering hiking self-care? Hiking helps me stay fit and joyful. It’s a part of my self-care routine because of the ten benefits of hiking, which I share here. Hiking self-care challenge is what I want to invite you to do. Why? Because you deserve self-care time, the you-time, the time in nature, with plenty of movement. You deserve to hike!
Growing up in the city of Kursk in Soviet Russia, raised by a single mom with mental health issues, I didn’t experience hiking. For the first time, I was introduced to this self-care tool when I came to America in my 20s. I live in Atlanta, GA. We have mountains everywhere, and they come with waterfalls. This is the combination I love.
Hiking mountains and waterfalls is mesmerizing to me. It allows me to enjoy my legs, arms, and other things I typically take for granted. What am I talking about? Meet Nick Vujicic who has no limbs. Benefiting from my health brings me joy. Hiking promotes my feelings of deep gratitude, for I know what it’s like to be ill, weak, and lifeless.
In 2016, I was depressed and suicidal.
Hiking self-care challenge keeps me exploring new mountains and waterfalls, entices my curiosity about the world around me, and engages me on a deep level in the actual process of living my life mindfully, actively, and gratefully. Being alive is a gift. My life is a gift. I am a gift. Hiking is a gift. I thank God for healing my depression and giving me new joy that comes from early-morning hiking.
What I Love about Hiking
I love hiking early in the morning before it gets too hot, even in the winter. My favorite hiking routine is waking up at 4 am, working out, making my bed, packing my healthy picnic, leaving home between 5 am and 6 am, and taking a nice drive to the mountains watching the sunrise.
I love morning quietness, the singing of the birds, the swooshing of the nearby water, and the whispering of the wind. I love experiencing the sunshine, the breeze, and the smell of the mountains. I love challenging my body and enticing it to move in natural ways, exactly how it evolved to this point: being active in the wilderness.
When the sun is shining and hitting my face, I feel alive and happy. I feel a part of this huge universe, a part of this world’s history, a part of God’s story of glory.
When the wind brushes my skin, I feel fully engaged in the process of living. I know all too well what depression feels like, what it’s like to be detached from this world and disinterested in actual living.
I know first-hand what it’s like to not want to get out of bed, to not want to do anything productive, to not want to move physically, and just lie flat in bed, staring at a ceiling all day. I’ve been there and done that… No thank you!
I shared my suicide story on this blog a while ago, so you know that feeling fully alive is very important to me. My very desire to feel alive is important. My interest in engaging with life and this world is what I value and cherish.
Why I Practice Hiking Self-Care
I don’t take my life, aliveness, and health for granted. Every day, every move, every breath, every thought about the joys of living all bring me to tears as my heart overflows with gratitude.
That is why I keep a thanksgiving journal on this blog sharing my blessings with you and helping myself stay optimistic every day. Gratitude and self-care are the key to a productive life!
When I’m in nature, all my stresses disappear. I disconnect from the urban, industrial life, and I reconnect with my roots, my ancestors, who spent all their time in nature, and for whom nature and wilderness were the only home. As you can see, I love hiking in the wilderness, not in the little industrialized trails within a city. What do I mean? Here’s my review on Yelp from March this year when I hiked a little trail right here in the city. It was cool but not as cool as conquering huge mountains.
This hike is very easy and flat. It's a little muddy. You can bring leashes dogs here. There are tables and benches to eat. Trash cans are everywhere, and they are well-secured to not be lifted by wind, people, or animals. There are water scenes here as well. This trail has the most fallen trees I had ever seen - with the old roots exposed, these old giants are lying there defeated by life and age, and seeing that reminded me that I must strengthen my roots to prevent myself from falling under the pressures of life. There are also hallo trees. There's nothing on the inside while on the outside, there's a huge body still. Seeing this reminded be to be discerning and watchful, not to buy into the illusion that if someone looks solid on the outside they are solid on the inside. There are also trees with the roots in but their bodies fallen off. Seeing this, reminded me that I only have one body and I must strengthen it to withstand the pressures of life. I enjoyed this hike. It's a place beautiful for bloggers to take pictures. I'm a blogger, and I got breath-taking images from here. My friend and I had fun figuring out the history of the old boiler in the house you see when you enter, the springhouse, and other interesting things. This trail is located in a neighborhood among houses, so that was unusual. It's just recently been renovated and there's a bridge to walk. It's a big loop. There are waterfalls to the left, and homeless people stay there: food, clothes, and trash can be found everywhere. I recommend this trail for a quick, easy, safe hike. via Anna Szabo on Yelp
Ten Benefits of Hiking
There are many benefits of hiking that have been proven by science. For example, Harvard Health Publishing states “Like brisk walking, hiking is a good way to improve your cardiovascular fitness, particularly if your route includes some hills, which will force your heart to work harder. Taking a hike on the slightly uneven surface of a trail also provides a natural way to engage the core muscles in your torso and to hone your balance skills.“
Also, one source reports such hiking benefits as lower stress levels, improved mood, and enhanced mental wellbeing, reduced risk for heart disease, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, improved control over a healthy weight, lower body fat, improved bone density, improved osteoarthritis outcomes, increases in flexibility and coordination, a better quality of life, and enhanced relationships with friends and family.
According to WebMD, hiking self-care challenge helps “build strength in your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and the muscles in your hips and lower legs.” These are all hiking benefits I can confirm because I personally experienced all of them. Yet, I want to share the ten benefits of hiking I value the most because of my life experiences.
10 Benefits of Hiking
- Hiking helps reduce my stress
- Hiking helps improve my mood
- Hiking helps me feel fully alive
- Hiking helps me engage with life
- Hiking helps me stay active and fit
- Hiking helps me explore and learn
- Hiking helps me challenge myself
- Hiking helps me experience God
- Hiking helps me detox my mind
- Hiking helps my mental health
The video above was filmed at Tallulah Gorge in my favorite spot where I love picnicking. The hike there is something I do regularly. Months prior to this filming, I was there with two friends. I remember looking down, staring at the waterfall, and thinking what it would be like to jump off the bridge and be done with the narcissistic relationship abuse imposed on me daily in my marriage. Those thoughts were running through my head in November of 2016, the year I married the narcissist. I opened up to my friends that day, and they listened with compassion.
My divorce and narcissistic abuse recovery took time. For months, I was disconnected from the world, disinterested in living life, and depressed to the point of severe suicidal ideation. But God healed me in every way, and I was fully restored in all aspects of my wellness: physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional. Thanks to my faith and self-care. Enthusiasm and optimism returned, and my curiosity fueled my renewed desire for healthy adventure. So, I began hiking again!
The video above is a poem, which I wrote as I was recovering from depression and beginning to appreciate life again. Filmed that day was the first time I hiked since my depression recovery. The joy was overwhelming my entire being as I was eating good food on top of my favorite mountains and taking in the beautiful view, the fresh air, and the divine unfolding of God’s promises.
How I Practice Hiking Self-Care
Comfortable clothes and shoes, a journal and a pen, water to drink, and a healthy picnic are the things I start with before embarking on a hiking adventure. With hiking, you always need a plan: know about the local wild animals (do you need a bear spray?), bathrooms situation (are any available, are they open, are they clean?), the grounds (what is the level of difficulty of the trail?), and whether or not you can bring your dog (I had to turn around once because the trail didn’t allow my dog Bruno on it).
I don’t go fast. No. I take my time.
Why? I look around mindfully and notice everything: the trees, the hills, the animals, the blue sky, the bright sun, the quietness, the voices of people if any, the echo of the urban life from nearby highways, and the overall landscape by the greatest designer – God! This allows me to take in all the beauty and become one with my surroundings, nature, and God.
Hiking gives me harmony and serenity.
Last year, I discovered solo-hiking. Let me tell you about my adventure of hiking alone in the icy snow. That day was the first time I saw many women who hiked solo, and I was so inspired! Why was I hiking alone? Here’s my story.
I decided to join a hiking Facebook group, so I did. There, I saw a scheduled hike far away in the North Georgia Mountains, and I signed up. The drive was much longer than I anticipated, so I was a few minutes late, and the women’s group left without me. Because it was so far away and I was already there, I went solo and enjoyed every minute of my hike.
Solo-hiking was liberating and empowering!
That was in the winder, so the Blood Mountain was covered in snow and ice, which I had to conquer. It was new, fun, exciting, and challenging. After hours of hiking there, I took another adventure and went on to explore a nearby town. When I got home 12 hours later, I wrote myself a thank you card because my heart was overflowing with gratitude for the adventure and for my courage to go alone.
Experience the privilege of personal initiative and independence as a woman by taking on my hiking self-care challenge: commit to a hike every week for 30 days and see what happens to your wellbeing, life satisfaction, physical fitness, and mental health. You’ll be new! You’ll love life! You’ll feel empowered!
The fresh air and being closer to God are my motivators when I’m planning my hiking self-care challenge. Touching heavens while up there near the sky feels very real and divine. Experiencing oneness with nature and feeling my body getting stronger by overcoming challenges on the difficult trail excite me way more than watching Netflix.
Today, I shared with you my journey from depressed and lifeless to an excited hiker who is healthy and enjoys life to the fullest. Hiking is a self-care tool to me. It helps me manage and even mitigate the risk of stress. Hiking allows me to stay fit both physically and mentally. It improves my emotional life in many ways. Most importantly, it helps me experience God, peace, serenity, harmony, and other spiritual benefits of mindfulness.
To recover from depression, I had to believe that I am worthy, I am loved, and I matter. My healing journey required self-care but first, I had to embrace the idea of deserving it. Self-care saved my life. It all begun when I learned who I am in Christ and what God says about me. Today, I help women see themselves the way God sees them.
I’ve specifically been focusing on identity in Christ. From the Bible, I discovered 52 incredibly-positive things God says about us as His daughters. Those 52 precious discoveries turned into 52 Biblical affirmations I created to encourage and empower Christian women.
To help share this life-changing information with you, I created an ebook called #52Devotionals. Download it now for free.
Anna Szabo is the founder of Online Discipleship For Women, a Christian ministry committed to alleviating suicide among women globally by sharing hope in Christ. Anna teaches how to create a joyful life by embracing God’s word based on her own journey of faith and fortitude.
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