Hiking in Donegal

So who needs adventure anyway?

To me personally I would say that everybody needs a bit of adventure in their life. But what is ‘adventure’ and what are the benefits to living a more adventurous life?


Although there may not be an agreed overall definition of what adventure means amongst those that research it, one of the more established explanations is: ‘a variety of self-initiated activities or experiences, usually involving a close interaction with the natural environment and contains some element of real or apparent risk, the outcome of which is uncertain but can be influenced by the participant’. Another commonly perceived aspect of adventure is that it involves some level of discomfort and physical challenge, and can be directly linked to improved well being.


This all sounds quite daunting and somewhat scary, but adventures don’t have to be big, scary and dangerous. Just getting outside and trying something new can really be of a benefit in so many ways. By getting out in nature, you can get away from the everyday norms and distractions that fill up so much of our time and thoughts. These things when immersed in them always seem so critical, urgent and important, the constant need to be connected, informed and validated has created a pressure cooker environment inside our heads, unconsciously affecting our moods, bodies and personal interactions. 


Being able to disconnect even just for a morning or an afternoon allows you the space for mental decompression, it gives you time to process your thoughts, even gain a new perspective on things and allow for some self reflection. I always find that I do some of my best thinking when I’ve been out in the hills by myself for a few hours. I’m not necessarily in any discomfort or at risk, but I am being immersed in nature and being physically challenged. 


Another example that I’ve talked about before, is the rollercoaster of emotions that I go through when I’m lead climbing. This is when the rope and belayer are below you and you have to place your own protection as you climb the route. I’m always super excited at the prospect of going climbing and at the start of the route, then as I progress up the climb and come to some difficult parts, I begin to get scared or anxious that I’m going to fall, I wonder what on earth I’m doing, this is stupid, I hate this……but then I get past the hard bit, I get some protection placed and I relax into the climb until I get to the top and I’m safe, at which point I feel a total sense of calmness. It’s these moments of intense focus that prevents you from thinking about anything else at all, indeed climbing is in itself a practice in mindfulness as well as a physical endeavour.


I think being immersed is an important part of the experience, if you are not being challenged then you may not be fully immersed in what you are doing, so you’re not totally focused on the experience then that leaves room in your mind for external influences and thoughts, exactly the type of thing you may be wanting to get away from!


For a long time there has been an understanding of the positive benefits adventurous activities can have on physical and mental health, with a considerable amount of research being carried out in this field around the world. Here too in Ireland there is a growing realisation of the benefits that being active in the outdoors can have on your mental and physical well being. 


So what are these benefits? Better quality of and engagement with life; better emotional regulation; more joy; improved goal achievement; better social connections; managing anxiety; overcoming fear; finding self-worth and generally being happier, healthier and more confident to name but a few!


I know not everyone has the means or ability to go on large multi day adventures in remote locations around the world, so how can you bring a bit more adventure to your life? 


Start small and at the edge of your comfort zone. If you’re uneasy with heights why not try rock climbing, if you’re not comfortable in water perhaps try kayaking, or why not combine them both and do some coasteering! If you’ve never wild camped, see if you can round up some friends and give it a go, maybe go into the woods and cook your dinner over a campfire, take part in a hike in the hills and mountains away from paths and trails, the possibilities are endless!


We’re lucky here in Ireland and even more so in Donegal, that we have so many wild yet accessible places to explore and have adventures in, it’s just a matter of getting out there, giving it a go and challenging yourself, you definitely will not regret it.

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