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The Healing Power of Hiking

Like most of us, the beginning of the quarantine period is a time I rarely like to think back on. I found myself searching for any ways I could to experience momentary joys, small distractions from the monotony of online classes and the sadness of being suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly torn away from friends and sent back home. 

Luckily, I found a new hobby during my time at home in quarantine that I have continued to enjoy. There is a forest right down the street from my house, and I had somehow never explored it until I found all of this extra time on my hands. One day, I decided to stroll through the forest with a friend (while 6 feet apart and wearing masks of course!). By the time we returned home, I was pretty surprised to see that an entire hour had gone by-- it felt so much quicker than that. 

The combination of being in nature and the exercise that hiking entails really seemed to allow me to escape my quarantine blues. The crunch of twigs beneath our feet, the sunlight peeking through the trees, and the twitter of birds surrounding us were welcome distractions. The exercise component truly seemed to boost my mood as well. I soon established these hikes in the forest as a weekly activity in my schedule, and I always looked forward to it as a time to escape and reflect. 

Flash forward to a few weeks into senior year at Colby. We’ve all been settling into routines that look a bit different this year from what we’re used to. While it’s wonderful to be reunited with friends and back on campus, it’s certainly an adjustment being back when Colby is quite different than previous years. I often found myself reflecting on past memories, and wishing things could just be back to “normal” for a bit. 

One day when I was feeling particularly unsettled and wasn’t in the best head space, some of my roommates spontaneously decided they wanted to go on a hike. I joined, hoping to clear my head and reduce my anxious thoughts.

After an hour long drive to Camden, a beautiful coastal Maine town, we began our hike. It was a beautiful sunny day, and we trekked through gorgeous trails with trees just at the brink of changing their colors.  By the time I reached the summit of Mount Megunticook, my unsettled feeling from earlier was all but forgotten. I felt much more relaxed and at peace, as I had rediscovered the magic of hikes that I found during quarantine. 

It is important to keep in mind even on tough days that a simple, natural solution such as a hike can often make a much bigger difference than you might think. 

Kristen Mahoney

The Conscious College Project Blog Contributor

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