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Enhancing Your Relationship Through the Amazing Experience of Nature Hiking

It’s widely known that spending time in the wilderness, whether hiking or staying in a lodge or tent surrounded by a beautiful array of trees, can give a significant boost of dopamine. Why? For centuries, humans have lived in and benefited from nature. However, immersing yourself in the great outdoors can provide immediate advantages not only for yourself but also for your relationships.

If you’ve ever climbed a mountain and found yourself engaging in more profound and meaningful discussions with your hiking companion than ever before, it’s not a coincidence. As highlighted by the National Park Service, one of the key advantages of hiking beyond mental well-being is relational wellness. Whether you’re embarking on a casual stroll in nature or a highly challenging ascent, tackling it with a partner, family member, or group of friends creates a shared adventure that can fortify the bonds between you.

Furthermore, there is scientific evidence to support this. A recent study supported by L.L.Bean revealed that experiencing a sense of awe in the outdoors fosters stronger social connections and friendships. Referring to a study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being in 2021, researchers found that engaging in outdoor walking together significantly influenced positive interactions and minimized negative emotions (such as feelings of emotional unease) between mothers and daughters. This discovery led us to ponder…

Is it possible for hiking to enhance communication?

“Hiking in nature is a type of physical activity that releases endorphins, which are brain chemicals responsible for generating positive sensations,” explains psychologist Alyson Nerenberg, the author of No Perfect Love. “The release of endorphins leads to reduced stress, anxiety, improved sleep, better mental health, and when your body releases endorphins, you tend to feel less stressed and anxious, making you more willing to communicate instead of isolating yourself.”

Moreover, being surrounded by nature while hiking can help in gaining a clearer perspective. “Being engulfed by nature reminds us that our problems are not as significant as we perceive, and that we are part of an extraordinary world,” states Dr. Nerenberg. “In situations where we feel overwhelmed and hesitant to share our challenges, we may realize that our difficulties are not as colossal as they appear.”

Due to this, Dr. Nerenberg suggests that challenging conversations generally become easier during hikes. “When you are seated around a table attempting to hold a serious discussion, the atmosphere can feel uncomfortable, and one or more individuals might shut down or become defensive,” she elaborates. “While hiking outdoors in nature, the formality of a sit-down conversation is lessened, allowing you to take a deep breath and unwind. Your focus is often on your breathing during inclines or admiring the beautiful surroundings, leading to smoother communication.” For many, engaging in tough conversations becomes more manageable when not maintaining direct eye contact.

Besides easing the intimidation of conversations, hiking also encourages people to be more present. To traverse the trails safely, most individuals tend to stow away their phones and other screens. By eliminating external distractions, there is more openness to connect genuinely with the individuals accompanying you. Therefore, even when there’s an opportunity to sit down or take a break during the hike, clinical psychologist Megan Jones Bell, who serves as the clinical director of consumer and mental health at Fitbit, advises against succumbing to the temptation of checking emails and social media while in nature. “To fully enjoy the benefits of outdoor activities with others, it’s vital to remain present and engaged,” she emphasizes.

How to inspire conversation and camaraderie while exploring the great outdoors

If unsure about initiating free-flowing conversations, Dr. Bell proposes prompting questions. “To deviate from the routine ‘how was your day’ queries, try posing open-ended questions to check in and encourage sharing,” she suggests. Don’t shy away from addressing significant topics. “Allowing moments of silence during shared outdoor activities can make deeper conversations feel more approachable.”

Another option is to commence your outdoor experience with a moving meditation. “Individuals can maximize their time in nature by collectively practicing mindfulness,” Dr. Bell shares. “While hiking, consider attempting a moving meditation using the Fitbit Premium app or a guided breathing exercise. By combining mindfulness moments with dialogues, the hike becomes more enjoyable, rather than fixating on the destination or getting distracted.”

To cultivate a stronger connection, Dr. Nerenberg recommends expressing gratitude to your hiking partner for joining you—this gesture goes a long way and can facilitate more comfortable interactions.

However, it’s essential to maintain realistic expectations. “Significant changes don’t happen overnight,” Dr. Nerenberg reminds. If facing communication challenges with a loved one, the initial hike together might not lead to profound discussions—simply focus on creating a positive enough experience that would entice you both to hike together again.

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