We were born on earth totally clueless, expecting our world to be a gorgeous paradise where everything sparkles and people are really nice to one another. Optimistic and sprightly, we try to build a life that would mirror our dreams and aspirations. But, then, reality strikes, and we become slaves to stress and our work. Slowly, depression hits, and we find ourselves hopeless and in dire need of help.
And, make no mistake about it – depression is a silent, cold-blooded killer. The way I see it, depression is a serious illness that should not be taken lightly. For the past couple of years, there have been quite a lot of notable icons who took their own life because of depression, such as Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade and Chris Cornell. As a matter of fact, I just recently lost someone close who committed suicide, after facing a series of turmoil and stressful events.
And, in the Philippines, depression is, sadly, spreading like wildfire. According to the WHO and DOH, there are over 3 million in the country who are living with depression and anxiety. Moreover, a study conducted in 2016 suggests that there are around 7 people who commit suicide every day in the Philippines. Even though our suicide rate is fairly lower compared to other nations, the steady rise has been alarming, especially since Filipinos have been known for their resilience and cheerful spirit.
But, on the bright side, there are plenty of natural remedies in the Philippines that can help depressed people feel so much better.
And, one of them is hiking.
The truth is, I’m not a psychiatrist or an expert, when it comes to mental health, though I’ve faced anxiety before. Even so, I wholeheartedly believe that hiking can help those who are struggling with these mental issues.
Honestly, I don’t think it’s the perfect cure for this illness, but it can nevertheless help a handful folks out there who need to escape the clutches of depression. With our picture-perfect rolling hills and towering peaks, hiking in the Philippines will surely give make your disposition a little sunnier and brighter.
Here are some reasons why hiking is Mother Nature’s antidote to depression.
Social media detox
From strengthening social bonds to sharing your life’s unforgettable moments, social media has been a part of our DNA in today’s rapidly evolving world. But, sadly, it sometimes feels like a cancer to our society.
Not only is it making us narcissistic (we all want to be worshipped on Instagram and Facebook), but it’s also turning us into pessimists. Furthermore, it makes people depressed and encourages us to upstage the recent feats, accomplishments and purchases of our so-called friends online.
“Social media is training us to compare our lives, instead of appreciating everything we are. No wonder why everyone is always depressed”, – Bill Murray.
On Facebook, you’ll see a ton of people showcasing apparently perfect lives, through their latest material things, luxurious getaways and big-time investments.
#blessed #thankyoulord #sothankful
These hashtags seem so familiar, right?
And, when people post about their brand-new cars and gadgets, others feel inadequate and depressed. What’s more, seeing someone’s photo get more “Likes” than yours can make you feel jealous, worthless and less popular.
And, that’s not all!
There’s also so much moaning, stereotyping and hatred on social media today. Every time I open it, I see a plethora of words promoting hate and depression, such as “bobo”, “inutil”, “tanga”, “putang ina mo”, and a whole lot more. Whether it’s about politics, NBA playoffs or BMC, most of today’s social media users have a knack for debating and bashing people.
Thankfully, though, we can get a quick escape from all the social media fiasco, when we are hiking. Even if it’s a short day hike, communing with nature at least gives us a break from our digital leash and social media’s toxicity. While hiking doesn’t guarantee a complete lack of cell-phone service and connectivity, you’ll most likely get a well-deserved break from the non-stop thrumming of social media news cycle. And, as you integrate hiking in your system, you’ll soon learn to live life without relying too much on social media.
You’ll learn to master the art of not giving a f*ck
Most of us make our life more stressful and depressing than it is. That’s because we give a f*ck what others think and say about us. And, when you worry so much what others say or think about you, you’re practically living your life for these people. As a result, you’ll feel extremely miserable and depressed.
Let’s face it, we buy a lot of expensive things and show them off, to get someone’s approval. Likewise, we strive to look like a flashy celebrity, so we can look good in someone else’s eye. And, when we don’t get their validation, we’ll suffer from rejection.
But, we all know it’s a marketing trick designed by corporate tycoons, so we’ll buy their expensive products and gadgets.
“We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no great war. No great depression. Our great war’s a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie, and rock stars. But, we won’t. And, we’re slowly learning that fact. And, we’re very, very pissed off”, – Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club.
In hiking, you’re going to get muddy, sweaty and oftentimes smell like a sack of full of sh*t. Not to mention, you’re going to crawl, scramble, and even slip.
That beauty queen posture you’ve been working on? It won’t matter on the trail. Mother Nature will essentially expose all your flaws, weaknesses and fears.
But, guess what? Your hiking buddies won’t give a damn about it. Armed with a few hiking essential and a sense of adventure, your physical features will also be the last thing on your mind, as you hit the trail.
As you hike mountains, you’ll be so focused on living in the moment and surviving that you’ll forget that mud spat on your cheek or that sweaty shirt. Then, you’ll realize that you can live a happy life, even if don’t look as good as what others look like on Instagram. And, eventually, you’ll learn to master of the art of not giving a f*ck.
Hiking helps develop mental toughness
We are, in general, a mentally weak generation. Admittedly, I’m not as mentally as strong as my forefathers. In a world where everything’s instant and easy, we rant as well as get sad and anxious, when things don’t go our way in the blink of an eye.
With everything so easy on our end, we really don’t have the patience and resilience of the previous generations. And, that’s why we easily get depressed, even though our problems seem fairly manageable.
We, then, try to drown our sorrows through ugly habits and diversions like drug intake, eating sprees and alcohol overindulgence.
But, we all know that’s not the solution to our problems.
Amazingly, hiking can help develop mental toughness in young people.
As I’ve said before, hiking isn’t always a walk in the park, especially when you’re chasing steep peaks and hitting not-so established trails.
It will you test your boundary and even push yourself past failure. At times, you’ll even think of quitting, in the middle of the hike.
But, as long as keep moving, you’ll ultimately reach the final stop, and finish the hike with a thicker sheet of armor to face stress and life’s troubles.
And once you’ve developed mental toughness through hiking, you can shrug off the small problems, withstand more pain, and have loads of energy to make the important decisions in your life.
The camaraderie in hiking
Melancholic people need a circle of friends or a support group wherein they can share their problems with. And in hiking, you’ll meet a ton of upbeat and cheery people who’ll listen to your thoughts and even give a shoulder to cry on. With their infectious positive spirit, they definitely can lift up your somber spirit. Heck, I’ve met some broken-hearted people who are now happily married, thanks to the friendly folks in Cebu’s hiking scene.
And, they will listen to your woes and daily problems, even if you’re not with them on the trail. My nameless new hiking crew, for instance, has always been there, every time someone in the team is in trouble. Raul – the team’s father figure – just recently had an aching heart, following his short 12-day romance with a fellow hiker.
As with any supportive friends, we were there for him, to improve his frame of mind and aura. What started as a random collection of hikers is now a group of supportive friends.
Hiking releases your happy hormones
Hiking is a form of exercise, as far as I’m concerned. Like running, zumba and calisthenics, hiking releases the feel-good chemicals in the brain, like dopamine. In addition, it increases stress tolerance, reducing the risks of suffering from depression.
Life is an emotional roller-coaster ride, full of ups and downs. And whenever I’m on the low side, I turn to hiking, to improve my mood and perspective on life. Truthfully, hiking may not the ultimate cure to depression. To me, depression is a serious condition that needs a doctor’s treatment. But, at least, hiking and communing with Mother Nature can give you a mood boost and a positive feeling, when you’re feeling low. So, if you’re feeling a bit down, just hike the closest trail. Who knows? A fascinating and epic adventure may be just what you need to shake off the blues.