Aconcagua with Earth's Edge 3

Mountains and mental health: how trekking can heal the mind

Robbie O'Raw

We all know that nature plays a huge part in our mental health. The great outdoors are a wonderful healer, and no one knows that like Robbie O’Raw. Robbie travelled with us to Elbrus in 2019, and he’s the latest guest in our podcast. In the episode, Robbie talks about the relationship between the mountains and mental health, and how the hiking has helped to heal him…

Mountains and mental health

“I’m an only child. The only male figure that I had was my dad. My dad’s a lovely man, but he’s from a generation where being the man and all that comes with it was his bread and butter. He wanted to be the one who provided, and took the burden away. But that comes at a cost. You focus on other people’s happiness rather than your own. And that’s what I thought was normal.

I had a couple of relationships through the teenage years and college, and they all had that same intensity. I’d wonder why I wasn’t getting the happiness I needed.

The low point

It came to a head in 2018. I had been in a two-year relationship at that stage. We quickly moved in together, and I moved from Dublin to Meath. It was like the volcanic eruption of all that stuff that had gone on in my life. I cut myself off from my friends. I wasn’t earning much, and I was spending what little I did have travelling up and down. My self worth came from that relationship being happy and healthy, when in reality, neither of those things was true.

After a long time of not talking about the issues, I remember sitting on the couch and saying, “We shouldn’t be together”. Within an hour, she had left.

Because of the value I had put onto that relationship, and every relationship, I found myself really empty. I didn’t know what to do. It’s such an unhealthy mind-set. I found myself at the bottom of a dark hole.”

Finding the outdoors

“I’d always put hiking at the bottom of my CV. But I’d never really committed to it. It was April 4, still snow everywhere. I did the Spinc, and did it just for myself. I wasn’t doing it to make my partner happy, or impress friends – I was doing it because it would fill me, and I was empty. That was when I started to climb my way out of things.

There’s a healing to getting out into nature. And there’s a slowing down of the mind. To this day, I’ll get a text off a friend saying, “I feel a bit weird, I think I need a hike” and we’ll head out. It’s out of the norm. We’re so used to being surrounded by four walls. But outside, you can drink in all that there is out there. You become aware of how grand and spacious places are. It puts you in your place, you feel a bit smaller. You’re standing at the bottom of the mountain and you realise you’re not that important! Your problems go with that, once you let go of how unimportant you are. You let go of how insignificant your problems are.

I’m a big advocate of silence, too. Getting out and just being quiet, and listening to the wind. Some of my favourite moments have been waking up in a tent and hearing the rain pour down. It’s just that sound, that quiet. It’s nature doing its thing.”

Robbie’s episode is a must listen for those who believe in the power of nature. You can listen to the Earth’s Edge podcast here.

Related Posts