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Mental health/hillwalking

Mental health/hillwalking


Postby mynthdd2 » Mon Oct 08, 2018 4:18 pm

I guess this subject has been touched on many times but I do read/acknowledge that hillwalking is well good for good mental (and physical) wellbeing...... is it the solace of the empty places that helps with eg depression/anxiety disorders? the sense of wellbeing from endorphins doing the business after a good (dodgy knees notwithstanding) day on the hills?

Has anyone had experience of mental wellbeing in the great outdoors despite the lethargy that comes with eg depression?

Ta
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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby Cairngormwanderer » Mon Oct 08, 2018 4:31 pm

The hills have kept me alive in the past. Quite literally I suspect. Always a place of comfort and solace, but it's not necessarily the solitude that does it. I first started helping out at bothies at a time of great stress and turmoil in my life and the company I made through that and the feeling of achieving something all helped.
Getting away from daily stresses and into the calming effect of nature is good. Putting yourself into a situation where, even when there's no great drama, you are totally responsible for your own wellbeing and decisions are simple and immediate, all helps you feel in control for a bit. And if the weather kicks off and you have a bit of a fight? Well as long as you are up for it, coming through adversity on your own skill and wit, is also empowering.
You may be going back to the same old **** on Monday, but a weekend up the hills is a massive respite and it's how I gradually came to realise that I'd redefined myself from being what I did for a living to being a mountaineer/stravaiger who happened to work through the week. No difference to anyone else, but a big mental difference for me.
Hills. They're the business. :)
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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby mynthdd2 » Mon Oct 08, 2018 4:38 pm

Thank you - I really appreciate what you had to say there....
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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby Lightfoot2017 » Mon Oct 08, 2018 4:53 pm

Cairngormwanderer wrote:The hills have kept me alive in the past. Quite literally I suspect. Always a place of comfort and solace, but it's not necessarily the solitude that does it. I first started helping out at bothies at a time of great stress and turmoil in my life and the company I made through that and the feeling of achieving something all helped.
Getting away from daily stresses and into the calming effect of nature is good. Putting yourself into a situation where, even when there's no great drama, you are totally responsible for your own wellbeing and decisions are simple and immediate, all helps you feel in control for a bit. And if the weather kicks off and you have a bit of a fight? Well as long as you are up for it, coming through adversity on your own skill and wit, is also empowering.
You may be going back to the same old **** on Monday, but a weekend up the hills is a massive respite and it's how I gradually came to realise that I'd redefined myself from being what I did for a living to being a mountaineer/stravaiger who happened to work through the week. No difference to anyone else, but a big mental difference for me.
Hills. They're the business. :)


That's a terrifically honest, insightful and uplifting piece there. Well said, Sir. :clap: Pretty sure a lot of people reading that will be able to identify with what you've written.
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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby Lightfoot2017 » Mon Oct 08, 2018 5:11 pm

I'm not a terribly sociable person. I've done most of my Munros  (c.130/159) solo for a reason.

 The time I spend on the hills is the only physical exercise I get. It's also just about the only time / space I get to do quality thinking. ..to clear my head and focus on what's important to me..and FOR me. (I used to go angling. ..and that was great for long periods of silence and solitude and quality thinking too.)

So for me hillwalking is a form of therapy. ..allowing me to escape the daily hassle of people noise and pointless cr@p from work.

I agree with the point made above about the sense of achievement when I come off a hill safely. I find its a massive ego boost. I've been lost a few times on my earlier jaunts out on the hills,  and have massively misjudged timings and distances etc sometimes arriving back at the car well after dark. But getting better... becoming more confident...  at that is all part of the process for me. If that's not therapeutic then I don't know what is.

So, yes, hill walking and good mental health. For me they're inextricably linked.
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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby Fiona Reid » Mon Oct 08, 2018 6:32 pm

Climbing and hill walking basically keep me from going bonkers. If I don't get outside doing stuff for any length of time I get pretty fed up and more likely to feel rubbish.

Climbing probably helps more so than walking as the level of engagement required means you have to focus on what's right in front of you and the rest of life ceases to be important. With walking there's still space in your head for the day to day stuff to intrude.

I suspect had I not started walking and climbing I'd be miserable, many stones heavier, very unfit and quite likely drinking too much.

These days, largely thanks to the outdoors stuff I do, I value my free time and health a lot more then I did in the past.

I intend to continue spending all my free time outside for as long as I feasibly can and with mates well into their 70's that still do monster hill days have them to inspire me as to what's possible :)
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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby Pastychomper » Tue Oct 09, 2018 11:18 am

Being outdoors was found to be good for my mental state before I could open the doors myself. Everywhere I've lived I've found somewhere slightly wild to go, be it hill, wood or some scrubby "waste"land. Even the most regressive areas of the dear old Saafeast have their green patches, but like Moses of old when things get really bad I go up a mountain. An observer might be able to pinpoint some of the hardest times in my life by watching how many hills I climbed.

For me it's a combination of factors - being out in fresh air, able to cool down, space, freedom, exercise, space, achievement, natural beauty, space, and the perspective of seeing my usual bit of the world from afar. Plus I find something inspiring in the variety of plants and animals that manage to thrive while clinging to a half-inch of wind-blasted soil.

I have some experience with "clinical" depression and anxiety (haven't (so far) been diagnosed with either, but let's just say I've seen it close-up), and a good hill is surprisingly effective for some people. I'm convinced the single most effective "treatment" is for the sufferer to accept that something's wrong, closely followed by sticking with whatever other treatment helps, but for anyone capable of leaving their house I'd recommend at least trying a hill or two.
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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby Sack the Juggler » Tue Oct 09, 2018 12:13 pm

mynthdd2 wrote:I guess this subject has been touched on many times but I do read/acknowledge that hillwalking is well good for good mental (and physical) wellbeing...... is it the solace of the empty places that helps with eg depression/anxiety disorders? the sense of wellbeing from endorphins doing the business after a good (dodgy knees notwithstanding) day on the hills?

Has anyone had experience of mental wellbeing in the great outdoors despite the lethargy that comes with eg depression?

Ta
there is a youtube channel that I follow, a girl called Abbie Barnes, who does a lot of solo (and a few with others) walks around Britain, who suffers from depression, although you probably wouldn't know it from her videos, as she is very positive in them.

This video of her's may explain her on screen positivity
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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby Magoo82 » Tue Oct 09, 2018 1:17 pm

This is one where my own story can often be quite confusing, even to me :lol:

For a lot of years my doctor had me convinced I was depressed and to be fair I probably was because the antidepressants and the sleeping pills often helped in the short-to-medium term. Of course, any time my doctor asked me how much I drank I always just gave the standard response of "a few pints" thinking it was none of the doc's business and not even realising myself that I was actually living as an undiagnosed alcoholic. Knowing what I know now, it was my alcoholism fuelling the depression and not the other way around.

But I discovered hillwalking about six years before the end of my drinking career (which ended in May 2017) so it certainly wasn't a case of hillwalking saving me. There was some crossover, a period when I did both. Recovery has enabled me to learn a lot about myself and the way my mind works though. I'm just susceptible to addictions and that doesn't just relate to drink. If I get into something new and enjoy it I become quite obsessive about it. When I got into hillwalking it wasn't enough just to go walking in the Sidlaws, I wanted to do munros and go hiking in the Himalayas. When I got into trailrunning it wasn't enough just to do the Camperdown 5k parkrun, I wanted to do mountain marathons. Just like if I went down the pub for a couple of pints it'd turn into a three day bender.

I guess hillwalking can be good for addicts as it gives us something positive to channel our obsessive nature into. We know we can't change the way our brains are wired, that's just the way we are. For me the breakthrough was discovering that I'm an alcoholic, accepting it and embracing it in such a way that that knowledge could help me live a better life.

I used to drive home at stupid speeds from days out on the hills because I couldn't wait to get home and have a drink. Now I don't even think about drink. So hillwalking has been there through the good and the bad. But I think the process of getting sober has probably been easier for having hillwalking in my life as addicts don't take well to boredom. Life is a lot of things these days but boring isn't one of them :lol:
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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby spiderwebb » Tue Oct 09, 2018 2:43 pm

When I look back, hill walking for me has been the one constant throughout life, something I have always enjoyed, and I guess part of that is because it is one thing I have had control over. The same cannot be said for other life events including depression.
My first encounters with clinical depression were back in the late 1990s and again in 2010, and more recently it has been a feature of the last 5 or 6 years, on and off, but never really leaving me, and as I write this on medication, counselling and off work.
I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. You can enjoy a moment, smile whenever needed, become a master at hiding it, because its so much easier to say ‘you’re fine’ when you are not. I can overthink every situation to the point of extreme anxiety about going anywhere, wanting to cancel, but the fear of letting some-one down is also overwhelming, to the point of never putting myself first. Staying home is the safe option.

I try and reflect on my hill days, especially those where I have been battling the elements or being relied upon to get us all down safely. It gives me something that I haven’t found elsewhere in life, but it too can suffer from a loss of motivation when depression is at its worst. It affects all aspects of one’s life.
The overriding feeling is one of worthlessness, that you have no place in life, no purpose in this world, even to family and friends. Compliments, how much you are valued, liked and loved etc. can reduce me to tears, as it is impossible to process such emotions. Its as if the emotions of happiness, that someone cares, of love no longer exist, somehow disconnected or sub consciously switched off as protection following some previous event. The ability to be close to someone is almost impossible, whilst at the same time having a huge capacity for empathy, maybe too much, a desire or need to help anyone, but myself.

The first step is recognising that you are unwell, there is no shame, although it will feel like it. My last two instances where I sought help, were desperate, and I recognised it, thankfully. I have written good bye letters, had a length of rope to hand, or woken up on the kitchen floor after a drinking spree (and I’m only a social drinker). It is very hard to seek help, not least as you have that ‘barrier’ in trying to explain to doctor or counsellor what thoughts are in your head, an emotional feat in itself. You only know that the thoughts are irrational, you can even understand that, even if you don’t feel it, that loss of feeling again, the inability to process anything good.

You can have days where you simply sit and stare, even just popping out for shopping is too much. It can reduce a confident person to a shell, existing but not living. Your emotions will be heightened, to an extreme, especially on anything sad, a film, a song or a memory. You will often look back to happier times and just cry, unable to look forward, as you see no future.

I can relate to loss from suicide, I can understand the feelings of intense pain in the mind, the constant tears, that there is nothing left, no reason to keep going and for that alone it is not a selfish act. It is a permanent solution, but a permanent solution to a temporary problem. A problem that can be helped, the first step is recognising it, to seek help, whether that be medical or situational or both.

The cliché that you cannot begin to love anyone until you love yourself is true. Finding that self-worth is key, and for me that can but not always, come from the mountains, that ability to take myself out, be self-reliant, overcome challenges of route or weather and in some cases life or death situations and for those brief moments put all other things into perspective. The feelings of low self esteem or mood may always be there, I have said it elsewhere that if in a serious situation on the hills I would die trying, to save someone else or a canine companion, so I guess I still have some way to go.
For anyone reading this, please don’t suffer, alone, for you are not, others understand, as I do, it is an illness like any other, maybe not visibly, but help is there, you just have to accept it before you can ask.
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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby Sack the Juggler » Tue Oct 09, 2018 2:55 pm

I grew up in the city, far from any greenery other than the parks, which were great for playing footie in, but run down. It was all a bit gritty.

When I was a teenager I joined the cadets and started camping, exploring, getting out on the hills and I found beauty I didn't know existed, and the peace and tranquility that is hard to find in the inner city.

I now live in a beautiful place only 5 minutes drive to the hills, where I can walk or camp with friends, or in solitude. I don't mind either. I still find it amazing to be up on the hills walking along, either through sunshine or cloud, and not meeting or seeing another soul despite the beauty up there.
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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby Mylo73 » Tue Oct 09, 2018 3:47 pm

A good read on this is High and Low: How I Hiked Away From Depression Across Scotland by Keith Foskett

https://www.amazon.co.uk/High-Low-Depression-Across-Scotland-ebook/dp/B079KG2VG3

Well worth a read.
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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby mynthdd2 » Tue Oct 09, 2018 3:58 pm

Thank you for sharing these thoughts - I realise it can't be easy - whilst I have never been clinically diagnosed with eg depression there are periods in my life where lack of control made me drink too much and sit on my a**e for long periods of introspection. The problem here was that inactivity; ageing and weight/sleeping problems meant going in to the hills was too much of a chore

Whilst breaking the cycle is not easy - once I am alone and striding (remember the creaky knees) the hills exert their calm even in minging weather - self medication of the best kind
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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby Walkinmyfootsteps » Fri Oct 12, 2018 7:23 pm

Healthy body healthy mind.
Easy four words but it’s a winner
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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby Caberfeidh » Sat Oct 13, 2018 5:10 pm

Aaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrr.
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