Nature treks as therapy

Time spent in nature – whether walking in a park or birding, trekking or rock climbing — is therapeutic, and can help with physical ailments and with mental well-being. There are several people who discover the benefits of being outdoors either through professional advice or serendipitously.

Geetanjali lost her father when he was just 62 and he succumbed despite two surgeries. It impacted Geetanjali, and she went into a deep depression. She had also started experiencing acidity and reflux for the first time in her life. Sleep became difficult and she got caught in a vicious circle of not being able to eat properly, which further deteriorated her digestion. She felt that something was seriously wrong with her health, and didn’t know how to help herself. It’s at that time that her friend showed her a path.

It was then that she met a friend who went on treks regularly with groups in the city, and was a firm believer of the healing effects of nature. She advised Geetanjali to join one or two groups, and regularly be outdoors. She soon did, and slowly, the amazing outdoors mesmerised and soothed her, and the exercise trekking gave her helped take her mind off the problems that had been bothering her. Out in the wilderness, she found that she breathed better, and she found herself relaxing.

Meeting other like-minded people on the treks decreased her anxiety and negative thoughts. She was distracted from the grief that she was going through, and from her body’s reaction to the grief. It took a few months but eventually Geetanjali got over her health problems, and also began to cope with grief better. She met people who had also lost a loved one, and found herself able to talk about her father – something she had been avoiding since his death. Talking to strangers was easier than talking to people she knew, and somehow, she began to feel better. 

Some treks were easy and some difficult. Initially she struggled to climb up steep slopes, and found that she became very tired. But she did not give up, and kept exploring treks with different levels of difficulty. She discovered that there were many facets to nature. The landscapes around were spectacular and there were many varieties of wild plants and flowers; and butterflies small and big flew around prettily. There were small water bodies where they found frog and insect life. There were many nature lovers who got very excited at discovering these micro habitats. Some were knowledgeable and she began to get lessons about the intricate connections that existed in the natural world. Her mind opened up in ways she had never imagined, and in addition to the fresh air and calm, she also began to learn a lot about various ecosystems.

Looking at these fascinating worlds, Geetanjali realised that she herself was but a tiny part of the universe, and that her own problems could be dealt with if she put in some effort.

The walking and climbing improved her stamina levels and she became better at it as she went for one trek after the other. The sense of accomplishment she felt was something she had not felt in a long time.  Slowly but surely, her acidity and stress levels came down, and she began to feel calm and joyful even. Without her realising it, her depression was a thing of the past.

Says Geetanjali about her experience, “I am so thankful for the simple solution to the issues I had been facing. I will always miss my father, but I have learnt to take care of the physical ailments that had been bothering me. Also, looking at the fascinating world of nature that I had earlier never paid attention to, I realised that I myself am but a tiny part of the universe, and that my own problems were miniscule and could be dealt with”.

In a writeup titled, “How a young medical student battled mental health issues”, Izzat Yaganagi, the head of Experiential Learning at Indiahikes, says about the therapeutic powers of trekking, “Going on a trek makes for an immediate and a drastic change in the surroundings. It enables them to distance themselves from their problems. Without much effort, it gives them a birds-eye view of the problem. Their biases and pain points go away. They become more objective. Their issues become smaller and smaller the more time they spend away from it”.

According to an article published in Washington Post, “Why birds and their songs are good for our mental health”, nature – and birdsong – reduce stress. Time spent in green outdoor spaces can lower blood pressure and cortisol levels, and seeing or hearing birds could be good for our mental well-being. Neuroimaging studies have found brain responses of stress reduction to other forms of nature exposure.

By opting to go trekking, Geetanjali had indeed chosen her therapy well. She was a much healthier and happier person, and was hooked to the outdoors for life.  

Story Source:

Written by :

Sadhana Ramchander, CEO, BluePencil Infodesign.

Sadhana Ramchander, CEO, BluePencil Infodesign.

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