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Hiking For Mental Wellness

A few months ago, I had a backpack full of emotions to cope with, most of which I had no idea how to face, let alone deal with. From bouts of anxiety to extreme burnout, regrets over missed opportunities, faded friendships, grief over relationships that died before they even began, to possibilities that never blossomed into realities.

My worst nightmare was being unable to play the ‘let me sleep and deal with it tomorrow’ card because of all the tabs that are constantly open in my head. And being an indoor junkie who only cares about Netflix, food, music, sleep, and having a thousand books on their shelves only made things difficult.

Had I known that my first hike would be my ‘Messiah’, then this article would’ve been written a thousand years ago. All I needed was a way out of what I was calling my life. My first hike started like a simple stroll around the neighborhood, a desire to get out and away from myself, but ended up being the one thing that drew me closer to myself.

Hiking takes you to another world. I can’t explain it, but I’ve known since my first hike that putting one foot in front of the other saved me, and I’m now incredibly drawn to the mountains and the outdoors. To the sound of wind rushing through the trees, competing with the birds’ sweet melodies, the pleasant petrichor after rain, the feel of the trail under your boots, and the calm that sweeps through the forests to remind you just how safe you are with nature.

Bathi Walk – Kimende

Disconnect and Reconnect with Nature

Hiking forces you to disconnect on several levels. You could be on the trails with other people but still be alone with your thoughts, with the world around you, taking mental pictures, your heart wandering in all the spectacular views, savoring every bit of what no man/woman has given it.

Most hikes will have no phone service, leaving you with nothing to do but enjoy the scenery. To be in sync with the world’s calmness, peace, and all its beauty. Something you may never experience from your office desk.

It frees you from the shackles of always ‘being on’. From being connected to the global network where you are constantly staring at your screen, scrolling, and checking for the next call or text. Nature relieves you of the mental fatigue that technology has enslaved us to, as well as the toxicity that results from it.

It’s like looking at the world through a different lens. God’s eye, where everything is perfect as it is. Everything around you is vivid. The shapes of the stones, the depth of colour in flowers, the strength in a waterfall current, the burn in your lungs as you climb a steep incline.

Hiking relaxes your mind, forcing you to pay attention to the sound of your voice and your thoughts and be present and mindful of everything going on around you.

It gives you a sense of purpose. The feeling of having everything you could need to survive strapped to your back, knowing that all you have to do is keep going until you conquer, makes the world feel smaller and you stronger.

How to take care of your mental health through hiking

A view of Ngong Hills – Photo Credits: Alex Kamau

Mountains have a story to tell, nature has a song to sing, and every hike has something special to offer.

For me, the trails have become a new form of therapy. Meeting myself at the foot of a mountain and climbing it as well as I can, taking in the beauty along the way, feeling everything, and celebrating myself at the top.

I’m climbing my mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual mountains one hike at a time, and I’m meeting the broken, but also the strongest version of myself at the peaks. It is a healthy escape from the never-ending rush of life and has been nothing less than healing for me.

I do not know much about hiking, yet, but I do know how it makes me feel. The trails have seen it all. Tears, blood, sorrows, guilt, failure, and shame. But it has also witnessed power, resilience, strength, intention, laughter, love, happiness, and victory.

Be aware of your Mental Health and remember that you are everything your mind is. Take care of it, feed it well, and protect it with everything you have.

Do it for yourself, so well that if it means turning off your devices for a while, taking a break from social media, leaving a relationship/friendship/job that does not serve you, or starting over in a new town, you will do it unapologetically.

And if it takes a mountain to conquer your mountains, then @LetsDrift is waiting to take you to your mountain.

The outdoors is a happy place, and nature is an intimate lover who does not discriminate, judge, or have expectations. Whatever your story may be, the trails are always there for those who need them.

Trust the trails, trust the mountains, and then trust @Lets drift.

Your saviour awaits you.

~The budding hiker ~ 

Gracey Eunice

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