Hiking Stories & Rants

The Road To Recovery: Nature Rehab For Body & Mind

     Today marks a day where mental health is in the spotlight through things like Bell Canada’s #BellLetsTalk and other less corporate means.

     Everyone has their own challenges, battles, shortcomings, and adversities.  Sharing stories, feelings, encouragement, and lessons from your own battles can benefit others fighting similar ones.  Today I was writing a social media post to share one such battle of mine.  I’ve decided to make it into a blog post to share in a longer form.

     Whenever life gets tough, I always head out into nature.  Whether recovering from physical injury or life’s mental health challenges, nature is nurture.  When I woke up one day and mysteriously lost all of my inner-ear function (balance), I was forced to take on a challenge I wasn’t prepared for.  Everyday activities from navigating the isles at the grocery store, walking in a straight line down the sidewalk, and no longer being able to drive really put a wrench in every aspect of my life.  From outward appearance, you wouldn’t guess I had any physical disability.  My stumbling and off-balance walking made me very self-conscious as people would give me sideways glances assuming I was drunk.

balance pad

     I Struggled through physio, where I wasn’t able to stand without assistance on a foam balance pad.  For months and years, I had many setbacks both physically and mentally. Activities I love were now difficult-to-impossible. The most devastating moments came when I was invited to activities I used to enjoy, but now realized I could no longer do.  I feared never being able to go on a bike ride, a paddle, or hike again.

     When faced with life’s biggest challenges, I do what I’ve always done and headed out into nature. I began the long, slow, careful process of recovery, wobbly step by wobbly step.  In local parks & trails, I had quiet, tearful moments alone as I wrestled with a new future.  Both mentally and physically these hikes became the most important aspect of my recovery.  Hiking was not only the absolute best thing for helping my brain rewire itself to improve my balance, but it was also the best thing to put life in perspective and shift my brain into a positive mode of thinking.

     This is all to say that when life gets tough, head into nature.  The solutions to problems, the motivation to continue, the benefits to physical and mental wellbeing are all there for you free of charge. The hardest part is always mustering up the motivation to head out and take the first few steps.  I can proudly say I’m now hiking almost as well as before, am able to bike on our glorious rails-to-trails (you may spot the occasional wobble in my videos), and can even skate as poorly as ever.  I can now stand on the previously mentioned balance pad on one leg, with my eyes closed.  Every small victory is another brick in the wall of building yourself back up.  Stick to it and things will always get better. 

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     If you’re beginning your own recovery, I’ve got a list of some ideal places to start.


One reply on “The Road To Recovery: Nature Rehab For Body & Mind”

I am so very proud of you, son, and all you have overcome. And your outdoor therapy success has encouraged many others, including me, to find our own strengths in the solitude and peace of Nature. Love, Mother (Carla)

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