New Workshop with Green Mountain Club Explores Hiking Basics
Summer is here and one of the best ways to tend to our well-being is to get outside. Hiking the Green Mountains – or the wide variety of green spaces up and down the state – is an option that’s quintessentially Vermont. Whether you’re looking to summit your first mountain, thru-hike the Long Trail, or just visit the park next door, you’re sure to get a mental health boost from it.
But if you’re new to hiking, getting started can be intimidating. What do you need to know? What kind of equipment will you need? How do you find out where people with your level of experience should hike?
Those are among the questions to which participants will find answers at a new workshop, Intro to Hiking. The free virtual workshop will be live on July 14 at 4-5 p.m. and available on our website afterward. Register for Exploring Summer in Vermont: Intro to Hiking workshop.
Lorne Currier, Volunteer & Education Coordinator for the Green Mountain Club, will lead the presentation. Nate Reit, COVID Support VT counselor, will facilitate. The interactive session will cover everything you need to get started. Participants will learn about personal physical fitness, planning a hike, solo vs. group hiking, Leave-No-Trace guidelines, and proper gear.
A Hike is Good for Your Mental Health
Hiking combines two brain-friendly activities – walking and being in nature. Each one is individually backed by strong research as a way to improve mental health and well-being. When you layer the experience of being in nature onto a brisk hike, you reap the benefits of each.
“Connecting with nature and the outdoors has a natural calming effect, says Support Counselor Reit. “It can bring us more into the present moment and help us tune in to our physical senses. Instead of staying caught in the analytical mind, worrying about the past or or future, we can slow down and appreciate our natural surroundings.”
Can a Hike Decrease Depression?
A 2015 study from researchers at Stanford University found walking in nature leads to a lower risk of depression. People who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area vs. an urban setting, showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with rumination. The tendency toward rumination — repetitive thought focused on negative emotions — is a key risk factor for depression.
Watch a short video about the study:
A more recent study linked more time spent in nature to higher levels of positive mood in general. It also found lower levels of negative mood and rumination in general. The degree to which an individual ruminated was key to whether their experience was negative or positive.
Antidote to Pandemic Stressors?
During the worst of the pandemic, many people around the world were cut off from nature. Evidence is mounting about the ill effects of that disconnection, and how nature exposure helps improve mental health during lockdowns. One study tracked the relationship among people in lockdown in Portugal and Spain. Results showed that contact with nature was associated with lower levels of stress and psychological distress.
In Vermont, fortunately, finding green spaces (and Green Mountains) in which to hike is easy. Hiking options for all abilities are just around the corner or within a reasonable drive, no matter where you are in the state. The Green Mountain Club, Vermont’s go-to source for all things hiking-related, offers a wealth of resources and information on its website, www.greenmountainclub.org.
Join the Green Mountain Club in our July 14 workshop for back-to-basics tips and insider secrets.
Exploring Summer in Vermont: Intro to Hiking workshop
Learn More and Find Resources
Watch this space for our upcoming article on Exercise for Better Mental Health. Subscribe below.
Read our blog on Getting Outside in Vermont: Town Hall Aims to Get Vermonters Outside for Mental Health in Mud Season.
Read a Guest Blog from Alicia DiCocco of the Green Mountain Club: Let’s Get Outside with the Green Mountain Club: Where to Hike in Mud Season.
Watch our April Town Hall: Getting Outside: Recreational Opportunities in Vermont.
Need to Talk?
Call 2-1-1 (in Vermont) for assistance.
If you or someone you care for is experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, you can: call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-825; text VT to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor 24/7; connect with your local community mental health center for 24/7 support.
Find resources and tools for coping with stress at www.COVIDSupportVT.org.
Find your local community mental health center by visiting Vermont Care Partners.
COVID Support VT is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency, managed by Vermont’s Department of Mental Health, and administered by Vermont Care Partners, a statewide network of 16 non-profit community-based agencies providing mental health, substance use, and intellectual and developmental disability services and supports.