This weekend, I went on a 12-mile hike. It was hot, and it was painful, and my legs ached and screamed after about mile 9.

Looking back, it was a perfect Saturday- an experience cultivated of joy, freedom, and empowerment in the highest senses of the word.

When I reflect on my happiest moments, they’re not always the easiest ones. In fact, they aren’t even the ones that entail comfort and relaxation. Indulgence is nice, but for me, happiness comes in the form of the great outdoors, of being out and immersed in nature.

We live in a really big world, and there is so much for us to see and explore. Nature makes me feel inspired; it makes me feel motivated and rejuvenated.

Where some people find serenity and spirituality in a place of worship or in prayer, I find it on a rigorous hike, at the beach, on a mountain. I find it where the world is a bit quieter- where the ground is more uneven and the skies are a little brighter. I find in the organic parts of the world- the ones where animals and humans coexist, where the lines between what's manmade and what's developed in nature seem blurred.

They say that nature is one of the greatest remedies for mental illness, and I’m inclined to agree. When I’m outdoors, the world moves at a slower pace. Problems seem less significant; hope seems easier to access.

Nature can humble us just as much as it can connect us. When I reflect on the best conversations I’ve had with my husband, in the moments I feel most connected to him, they’re usually when we’re out in the world, on some kind of adventure, exploring some beautiful gem in this world.

Nature connects the mind, the body, and the inner psyche. To be completely honest, I rarely feel like all these entities are connected for me. To be even more honest, I could do better at practicing this connection.

But, I’m only a human, which means that I’m not perfect- I’m far from it- and that I need to continuously assess how I can grow, learn, and improve myself.

I know that the more I am outdoors, the happier I feel. The calmer I feel. I know that I feel a sense of both accomplishment and mindfulness, and it’s hard to feel both those emotions at the same time.

I’m committing to spending more time outdoors. To visiting new parks and hiking trails. To longer walks and exploring new beaches. To sitting outside and letting the sun beat down my back. I’m committing to my mental and physical happiness.

There's always a place for comfort and hot showers and delicious air conditioning, and I love those indulgences, too. But to be outside is to be alive- and alive is where I want to be.

Author's Bio: 

Nicole is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, owner/founder of Soul of Therapy, and freelance mental health writer. Check out her website at Soul of Therapy.