Can Solo Female Hiking Heal Trauma

Can solo female hiking heal trauma? Yes. As a survivor of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD), domestic violence, and incest, I share my experiences of the many ways I used hiking to heal myself. I invite you to try some of these techniques to heal yourself through hiking. The trails you choose can be anywhere, from a National Park to a local walking path. The more access to nature, the better. However, start where you are and what you have readily available.

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Learn To Be With Yourself

For most of my life, I hated to be alone. A mother of three, it was easy to stay busy focusing on other people’s needs. It was a harmless behavior, so I thought. I didn’t realize I was using a coping strategy to avoid feeling my feelings. As long as I was busy, and my head was going and going, my feelings were pushed out of awareness. Deep, deep down I knew something was wrong emotionally. But it was too overwhelming to deal with directly. Today, after hard work and therapy, I know that’s the textbook definition of codependency. Fortunately, there’s a variety of ways to address and heal this. In this article, you’ll learn how I used hiking to heal myself.

Reconnect Your Five Senses

The steps I took to finally peel back the layers of my internal dysregulation were both devastating and liberating.

Trauma, specifically CPTSD, robs an individual of their birthright to experience the present moment through their five senses. For example, as a trauma survivor of many types of trauma, I developed internal strategies to shut down my senses and keep myself safe.

For a child, the five senses are meant to connect to the magic and beauty of the world. For a trauma survivor, being open to the world around you is not safe.

Trauma disconnects a person from their body, especially for an incest survivor. It’s terrifying to be in one’s body and feel physical sensations, so over time, the norm is to become numb. Breathing is typically shallow, and attuning to beauty in the moment is completely foreign.

It takes years to undo this pattern, and practicing mindfulness in nature, connecting to your senses is the first step. Traveling and experiencing nature to practice integrating the five senses and feeling safe in one’s body is the goal.

A trauma survivor must work tirelessly to put the pieces back together. However, spending time in nature, alone, tuning into the five senses works. Walking, hiking, and healing.

Hiking and Trauma

My love of hiking was not new at all. By then, I had trekked trails in over ten states with my kids, covering hundreds of miles. What was new was my love for hiking alone. As a shattered woman trying to sort out years of trauma, the woods were one of the only places that quieted my mind and restored my soul. Every single time I embarked on the trail, sanity and serenity followed. Eventually, I made the connection that I was intentionally hiking to heal myself. Here are three big things I learned from taking my pain to Mother Nature.

hike to heal

During extreme times of life stress, the central nervous system gets dysregulated. Furthermore, if you manage chronic illness, this becomes complicated. Immersing yourself in wilderness reverses this, slowly. Trees, wind, lakes, rivers, wildlife, the great outdoors…all create a sensory experience that calms physiology and opens up safe space within to feel difficult emotions. The weight of the earth beneath your footsteps as you trudge along. Dappled light through the trees. The sweet melody of songbirds. Sudden underbrush rustling as an unseen squirrel scurries by. A gentle breeze causes a branch to sway. The cool sensation when placing your hands into the lake. A satisfying squishiness to dig in mud on a river bank. A long, deep breath of fresh air.

You see, it’s not just a hike, but a reconnecting of your soul to the present moment, through your five senses. This realigns your central nervous system and restores hope that things will, somehow, someway, be okay again. Another way to view it is using mindfulness to heal trauma through sensory therapy.

hike to heal

Building Internal Connections

What about trauma that has led to emotional problems? Processing buried feelings is exhausting. During that time, energy for other areas of life may be limited. One significant area this affects is your relationships. Friends and loved ones may accidentally trigger you by their words or behavior while you are in this raw state. This may delay the healing process.

Also, while it is true that you need time to heal, you also need time to establish a new relationship with yourself. Just like all relationships, spending quality time getting to know the person is essential. The same goes for establishing a new relationship with you. Hiking in nature opens you up to the nuances of your inner landscape. It also increases your ability to feel your physical body.

The connection between making yourself a priority and being in nature get things flowing. Eventually feeling your feelings begins, and the releasing process has begun. Journaling helps this process.

In addition to traditional methods, solo hiking can heal trauma that has led to mental health problems. Taking yourself out of the day to day routines slows down the mental chatter. Unless the mind becomes quiet and calm, it can’t produce the energy reserves to tackle big stuff. Hiking through a solitary trail will indeed generate mental activity. And at first, there will still be the cerebral noise of solving life problems. 

However, your internal voice will steadily evolve, and what you will slowly begin to hear is your soul whispering. It is the sweetest sound there is. Hiking to heal will fine tune this sound.

Not to-do lists, not taking care of what everybody else needs, not self criticism. But the sound is you, speaking the language of love and self care.

hike to heal

The hiking to heal process is not a quick fix. Just like the divine pace of nature, you are learning to attune your thoughts to the natural rhythms of life. In time, your thoughts will also produce those loving and safe words. These are just a few of the many rewards of spending time with yourself walking in nature. Of course be good to your body and bring plenty of water, healthy snacks, and insect repellent if hiking near ticks.

My Solo Hiking Has Helped Heal My Trauma

Today I love to be alone and spend quality time with myself. When I go solitary hiking in nature, I experience the same physical, emotional, and mental benefits that occurred years ago. But now my inner world seems to connect me to the larger purpose for my outer life.

The intuitive messages I receive today are deeper and broader. It may be clarity around a creative project, integration of an earlier life lesson, answers around community and the collective, or simply direction to take in a relationship issue. The dimensions are far reaching and limitless. I only need to plan for, and follow through, on this precious Me time. Now I love hiking to heal myself, on purpose. Every time I step into the woods and start on the trail, I remember how much I love being my own best friend.

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