Discover, connect and reflect.
Each time we set out on a bush walk we have the time and space to do these things—time that we never seem to have in any other part of our busy lives.
As well as the physical ‘high’ you feel when you hike a trail, you might be surprised at the far-reaching effects of nature’s balm on your mental and emotional wellbeing.
Next time you wander along one of our many walking tracks in Queensland National Parks, take notice of both your body and your state of mind. What discoveries will you make?
Time feels different—immersion is bliss
Engage all your senses | Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government
‘Being in the moment’ is a familiar term but, in nature, it happens almost magically.
Your attention is totally focussed on your next step as you navigate a rocky stream crossing, harness the energy required to conquer the next big ascent, or problem-solve how to assist your hiking buddy traverse a boulder. In these moments you cannot help but be immersed in the ‘here and now’.
In nature, you are directly in touch with your physical body—your focus turns to ‘survival’ and the immediate challenges ahead—food, water and navigating the terrain.
You become immersed in your surroundings, and filled with a sense of awe each time you arrive at a lookout or turn a corner to find a scenic vista laid out before you. The natural scenery and calming sounds of nature are like a soothing balm for your nervous system.
Walking in nature takes your thoughts away from life’s daily stresses—your head feels clearer and your body more relaxed. You feel a sense of inner peace as you focus on connecting with nature.
Elation and tiredness can exist simultaneously
Elated hiker | Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government
This discovery usually occurs towards the end of a full day’s walk, when the last 5km of the hike are positively gruelling with lots of uphill and tricky terrain …
But when you stand, tired, at the end of the trail and you look back at where you’ve walked, just as the sun begins to set, you experience a sense of elation at your achievement. All those ‘feel-good’ hormones swirl around your body and you forget your exhaustion for a moment.
The benefits of walking regularly in ‘green spaces’ feature in many studies of positive psychology. Research shows that regular exercise in natural settings helps to improve mood and self-esteem. Walking soothes the spirit and calms the nerves, inducing a sense of quiet in the mind and in the body.
The ‘feel-good’ factor you experience when hiking in nature is even better than the lift you get from a cup of your favourite coffee!
Connection and reflection—a magical combination
Reflective hiker | Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government
Walking in nature presents us with potential pathways toward reconnection with both the natural world and other people.
If you are curious and look carefully, you can observe and learn about the delicately-tuned natural cycles and connections around us.
Our built-in connection with nature is known as biophilia—‘an innate tendency to want to connect with the natural world and to have a deep appreciation for the physical beauty of nature’.
We now know, through countless studies and research, that this connection with the natural world is vital to our health and wellbeing, especially since many of us are now living in urban environments, spending way too much time indoors with less access to natural light and surroundings.
This connection with nature happens almost of its own accord, especially when we are open to it and immerse ourselves fully ‘in the wild’.
Hikers at Kondalilla Falls National Park | Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government
But what about reconnecting with our loved ones? People often 'open up' when they walk. There's something magical that happens. Perhaps its a combination of the soothing rhythm of your step in time with another person, being able to talk freely and feeling elated by the energy of being on an adventure?
When walking with a friend, you'll find that you share stories, thoughts and concerns or questions that you might not bring up over coffee or a meal. Perhaps it's because walking in nature, away from the distractions of everyday life, gives you the gift of your friend's full attention. You both have time to reflect. And connect.
Take steps now to discover, connect and reflect
Walking truly is our best medicine. Treat yourself to a walk in nature soon to discover or rediscover all the gifts that nature has to offer us.
Find a park near you for your next walking adventure.