Why I Love Hiking & Its Impact On My Mental Health

It’s National Take A Hike Day!

And how perfect because I got a last minute schedule change to the night shift, so that meant I got to pop up to Boulder & get in a quick hike before work. But seeing that there’s a National Day dedicated to hiking, it got me thinking about why I’ve fallen in love with it.

I’ve never been incredibly athletic, I’ve always been the one breathing hard and taking breaks on hikes, one of the slower ones of the group. I don’t typically climb major mountains or go off trail, so I don’t really fall into the category of “avid hiker.” But since I’ve been back in Colorado hiking has been my saving grace. I’m not sure that I can really explain it, but I feel incredibly drawn to the mountains and the outdoors. Again – I’m not particularly outdoorsy by trade – but I just love it.

I love hiking because it forces me to disconnect.

So many of the trails I hike are out of cell phone service and even if they aren’t, I throw my phone on airplane mode. Working in news I’m constantly connected, both on social media and to media in general. It gets overwhelming and draining, especially for someone as sensitive as me so I have to disconnect. Those couple of hours knowing I have no responsibilities other than to enjoy the path in front of me are incredibly freeing.

I love hiking because it makes me feel my body.

I love when I feel the power behind my legs, the rocks underneath my feet, I even love when I feel that familiar burn in my lungs up the steep parts. Lately I’ve been feeling more grateful for my body, imperfections and all, and the places it allows me to go.

I love hiking because it makes me feel small.

The mountains I climb have been here for thousands, if not millions of years before me and they’ll likely be here for thousands of years after. Where I was hiking in Boulder this morning used to be an ocean millions of years ago. Hiking in Ouray this summer I saw a geologic marker that indicated a billion year gap between oceans.

I love hiking because it’s free.

For the most part… yes, sometimes there are fees for parking or for National or State Parks; yes, you need shoes on your feet and the right gear can be nice. But I love that I can pick up a friend, go walk through the mountains for a few hours and it costs us almost nothing. So many outdoor sports require expensive equipment, but hiking takes away that barrier making it much more accessible. 

I love hiking because it helps my mental health.

I’ve been fairly open talking about my anxiety here and hiking has been a huge help in managing my anxious thoughts and feelings. Everything I just mentioned plays a big role is calming down my brain, forcing me to breathe, to disconnect, to feel my body and to stay present. My therapist would probably say that’s mindfulness. Either way, it’s one of my many coping mechanisms and when I’m feeling especially anxious, I head to the trail. It’s a different form of therapy for me.

I couldn’t be more grateful to live in Colorado with such easy access to unlimited trails and views. I love getting to share the trails I love with friends and family and watch them find their reasons for loving it. I know that hitting the trails can be intimidating, especially here in Colorado, which is why I wanted to start this blog in the first place.

Getting outside and hiking doesn’t need to be reserved for the “outdoorsy,” it’s for everyone and it’s worth taking that first step.

And finally, I love hiking because it’s beautiful.

And my goodness that beauty is especially obvious here in Colorado! Just about every trail feels like a postcard and some offer views that don’t feel real even in person. Speaking of beauty, please enjoy a few pictures from the lovely Dave Puente and the time I had him lug his camera equipment all over Colorado.

Author of Approachable Outdoors Kylie Bearse

Kylie Bearse

When I'm not exploring the trails, I'm a Meteorologist! You can see me weekend mornings on NBC affiliate 9News in Colorado. Have a weather question? Don’t hesitate to ask!

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