There are mental health lessons to be learned from nearly every activity. For NoStigmas volunteer and contributor Mike Bushman, the most indelible of those lessons were embedded on hiking trails. During the next few months, we will share the best of those lessons, and how they apply to everyday life for so many.

9) You need the right fuel

 

Put the wrong things in your body at the wrong time, or fail to understand what your body requires to function, and it becomes nearly impossible to succeed.

 

If you ever tried an extended day hike or any sort of endurance sport, you know that the food and hydration dramatically impact performance.

 

Try to get through a day when you’re body is burning 10,000 calories while restricting yourself to 1,200 calories and your pace will be slowed, if not stopped. Try hiking on an all-fat diet, ignoring the body’s demands for protein and carbohydrates, and the body will eventually take its revenge by shutting you down. Ignore hydration, salts and other elements that our body chemistry needs to survive, and we put our very existence at risk.

 

Our brain chemistry requires fuel, some of which uses the foods and beverages we consume as ingredients. Some people don’t require conscious consumption changes to create the serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and endorphins that help us feel good. But many of us require consumption adjustments. Sunlight, sleep and, for some, prescription medication also affect our brain chemistry. Minimizing or avoiding certain substances can also help.

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