Hiking Can Directly Combat Depression
“My daughter is really depressed. We’re worried she might try to kill herself,” Jerry said.
“Hey,” I answered slowly, “I really mean this. Long-distance hiking has this almost magical quality to boost people’s morale.”
“Sure,” I answered. “It’s strange. Your options are dramatically reduced out in the wilderness. Yet it somehow enlarges you.”
I was having lunch yesterday with a guy in the Hamtramck section of Detroit. He was actually depressed himself over his daughter’s depression. The suggestion I gave him was about the best advice I could give anyone. Solvitur ambulando, St. Augustine wrote over a millennia ago. Well I won’t pretend that is literally true. Nonetheless, it constantly amazes me how walking–especially long-distance hiking–consistently boosts people’s morale. This same friend went on to describe his daughter’s virtual addiction to computer use. Hiking is not just for technophobes. But I’m here to tell you it is a great antidote to the anxiety and even nausea that plague the technology-addicted American public.
In Wild–From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed feared for her life after her mother had died, she had suddenly gotten divorced, and was addicted to heroin. She bravely chose to head out into the Mojave Desert and begin the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from Mexico to Canada. The rest is history, as it changed her life dramatically for the better.
Yes, when you are depressed or in a rut, sometimes the solution is simpler than you could ever imagine. Put one foot in front of anther.
Bill Walker is author of the Skywalker hiking books, including Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail, Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail, and The Best Way–El Camino de Santiago.