The Power of the Outdoors
"Colors are the smiles of nature."
There are a lot of reasons we venture into the outdoors — deep into the backcountry, miles and miles away from civilization. For some, the reasons may be more deeply rooted than others. But one thing I’ve found most common when talking with people on and off the trail is that getting out there keeps you feeling refreshed and alive! The smiles I see on the trail are larger than I’ve seen anywhere else.
The conversations I’ve had in the backcountry are deeper and more stimulating than I’ve had anywhere else, and the mental strength I’ve seen from people overcoming fear or adversity are beyond my vocabulary. There is truly something to be said about the power of the outdoors; what it does for us physically and mentally. It gives us a sense of belonging, a sense of gratitude, a sense of happiness, and even sometimes we are rewarded with things we can’t begin to explain — it’s something you have to witness and see for yourself, to live in that moment physically rather than vicariously.
"Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world."
As humans, we all have that one thing that recharges us from the inside out. For some that might be a night out on the town or an evening in with a glass of wine and a good book. For the adventurous ones, it's being out in the wilderness amongst the pines — strolling through fields of wildflowers, backpacking up to an alpine lake, watching the sun as it slowly disappears behind the horizon, the sky exploding with hues of pinks and oranges like you’ve never seen before, and then snuggling up in your sleeping bag underneath a starlit sky.
The outdoors has a power that is hard to put into words, it’s almost a form of magic. It's unexplainable but its power sends roots deep within us and touches our soul in a way that keeps us yearning for more. If you were to think of the happiest time of your life, and you were able to relive that moment twice over, that is the feeling that mother nature leaves on your soul. We venture out in search of solitude and we always return having found something we didn't expect but were intended to find.
Some moments seem to be suspended in time; as if they will last an eternity.
The outdoors is one of the most underutilized forms of therapy that we have and we tend to overlook the added health benefits that we receive from it each and every day. We work sedentary jobs for 8+ hours a day, we commute an hour or two on top of that, and we wonder why we become depressed, lethargic, choose convenience food (which is ultimately fast food) or other foods that aren’t healthy for us.
Our lives get turned upside down and we need something to help revitalize us, and there’s one answer — the outdoors! It can be as simple as taking a walk in the park on a sunny day and getting a few minutes of sunshine on your skin, or taking more time and immersing yourself into the wilderness.
I recently read an article in National Geographic written by Simon Warrall that talked about forest bathing; referring to being in an environment where all of your senses are engaged, something we don’t do often enough. Imagine if we prioritized getting outside at least 10 minutes a day, our bodies would feel just that much greater!
There is such a thing as a nature pyramid, the idea that nature is something we should have a portion of every day. They say to have moderation in life, but what if we were to have MORE nature in our lives; think about what a little bit does, now imagine what it would be like if we had nature around us every day — in our houses (plants, herbs, flowers, etc) and in close proximity to where we live (wilderness areas within drivable distances). Imagine how much happier we would be.
Some of the added health benefits of the outdoors include:
- Decompressing your mind
- Realizing your strengths and weaknesses
- Stress reduction
- Aligning your circadian rhythm
- Taking time away from cellular devices
- Human interaction and real conversation
- Experiencing new and enticing things
- Creating memories
These are just a handful of benefits that we associate with spending quality time outdoors, but there are many, many more.
"Over every mountain there is a path, although it may not be seen from the valley."
Adventuring in the outdoors can be a nice metaphor for our human experience; we have a destination in sight and a path we plan to take to get to said destination. Sometimes the path isn’t as straightforward as we'd expect, and we are forced to go around an obstacle or perhaps cut a new path. Sometimes it may feel like there isn’t a way to reach the pinnacle, and you may get discouraged and uncomfortable, and wonder why you’re even out there.
It's in those challenging moments, when you test yourself, that you come to the realization that you are right where you are supposed to be. You learn to trust your instincts and your skills. You learn to stay calm and to respect mother nature and whatever she may throw at you. You learn to adapt to your surroundings and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Sounds like real life eh? The things we learn in the wilderness correlate directly to real life; we learn how to overcome adversity, we learn how to push past our mental and physical barriers, and we learn when enough is enough and when it’s time to rest. Mother Nature is the best teacher as everything she teaches you is through experience.
The two smallest, yet most powerful words in the English language, in my opinion, are “I Am."
I am capable. I am worthy. I am deserving. I am strong. I am doing this. I AM.
It’s crazy to think about where our feet can take us. When you ponder the idea of trekking deep into the wilderness, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? The struggle? How long it will take? Can my body handle the strenuous activity? Can I really do this?
When you start to incorporate these 2 simple words into your routine, you become more consciously aware that you really are capable. It could be as simple as a 5k run you’ve always wanted to do, or it could be a 10-mile hike into the backcountry to a secluded alpine lake that you’ve had on your list for years.
The wilderness has a way of teaching us who we are. The outdoors help us reach our full potential through trial and error. Nature has a way of explaining things to us in a different form that we are not used to, but it teaches us lessons we can’t receive anywhere else. The outdoors have the power to transform us into the best version of ourselves, keeping our minds sharp and our bodies fit.
Nature is there whenever we need it and it’s never one to judge. The outdoors listens with only the intent of listening as we talk aloud or think to ourselves. The wilderness knows us as soon as we set foot on her trails, she feels our presence, she knows our soul. Nature puts us in situations that she feels we need to be in at that moment in our lives. The outdoors are a wondrous thing, one that has inspired so many lives and continues to do so. It inspires mine.
Lucas Riley is an adventure enthusiast, student, and aspiring photographer from Northern California. He is passionate about the outdoors and hopes to inspire others to opt outside through his photos and written words.