Get ready to hear the rant of a an old person….who masquerades around as a mid-thirty year old woman.
Recently Catherine and I went on our first backpacking trip (more on that to come). As we started our climb I could hear Eminem echoing behind us. Not the real Slim Shady mind you…it was just the extremely loud music coming from another hiker’s headphones. Being a fan, this produced two equal and opposite emotions in me.
First, it reminded me of rushing out to purchase his Encore album in 2004. I remember listening to it over and over again in my car, in my own headphones and in my college apartment. I thought I was pretty tough, pretty badass….but in reality I was a white girl going to very religious university.
My second reaction was, “what the hell is that guy doing?!”. We were climbing up into the coastal hills of Laguna Beach, CA. To say it was stunning would be a gross understatement. Not only was the ocean at our backs, but the desert landscape was in front of us, the ocean breeze was blowing and there were occasional birds singing. Does Eminem really belong there?
Now before you tell me that maybe Em pushes this guy forward and amps him up for a workout let me say that I totally agree. Music is powerful and has the ability to change your mood and sometimes even your outlook on the world. It can energize you during a run, relax you during times of frustration and create real genuine happiness.
The thing is, in this time of constant connectivity, maybe you should ditch your headphones while you’re on the trail. For one it’s dangerous. Wearing headphones reduces your sensitivity to the world around you. This means you might miss the sound of a rattlesnake or an approaching bear. More importantly you might miss out on the call of local bird life, buzzing insects, scurrying lizards and trickling water.
Many scientists have studied the overall effects of being in nature on the body. One study at Brighton and Sussex Medical School in England found that overall,
“nature sounds were associated with a decrease in the body’s sympathetic response (which causes that “fight-or-flight” feeling) and an increase in parasympathetic response—the one that helps the body relax and function in normal circumstances, and is sometimes referred to as the “rest-digest” response”.
I don’t know about you, but I can use as much parasympathetic response as I can get. If that’s not reason enough let me give you:
10 More Reasons Why You Need to Spend More Time Outside
- Normalization of sleep patterns thanks to natural light exposure.
- Increased vitamin D which help your body absorb calcium and make your bones stronger.
- Centering your mind, allowing your body to relax and remove of everyday stressors.
- Improved blood pressure thanks to all that fresh air.
- Downtime that allows your brain to recharge (which can actually free up space for creative thinking!).
- Concentrated breathing which is your body’s natural stress-reducer plus increased oxygen levels that affect your sense of well-being.
- Increased serotonin levels thanks to the bacteria in soils (weird but true).
- Increased endorphins from physical activity (cue Elle Woods).
- Time unplugged from your phone which can allow your heart rate to decrease.
- Lowered stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
To put it simply being out in nature reduces stress and improves your overall mental and physical health. If you spend your entire hike listening to Eminem you might take in some of the benefits listed above, but you will be missing out on a major component of the experience.
So I ask you to unplug your headphones (and don’t even think about getting one of those stupid bluetooth speakers that clips to your bag!…can you tell I have opinions on the subject?). We all spend enough time cut off from the world around us, scrolling through Instagram, listening to music and podcasts and watching Netflix.
Next time you go out on a hike take the time to smell the smells, watch the world around you, feel the breeze on your skin and listen to the leaves blowing in the wind. You might even say hello to a fellow hiker on the trail and have actual human contact.