The benefit of exercise and “self-care” as a boost to recovery from addictions, particularly sexual addictions, is absolutely true. When was the last time you experienced moose, deer or mountain sheep as part of your exercise program? In mountainous Utah, all things are possible!
As I stepped briskly down and rounded the steep, granite covered slope I was startled to see a beautiful mountain goat less than 10 yards away from me. I had my camera in hand and immediately powered it up to grab a rare picture of these elusive animals. He seemed very surprised to see me and I said softly without giving it another thought something close to “it’s okay” while reaching my hand out palm down in an attempt to soothe the animal. She looked at me for the briefest of moments and then turned to go down a steep, likely 60 degree slope. Another beautiful mountain goat immediately came into view and they both descended in seconds a slope that would take me several minutes at least to safely maneuver.
The evening hike had started with me pumped up for a great backcountry excursion beginning from the Silver Lake parking lot at Brighton, UT. I planned on hiking in and out within 4 hours on a late June evening…one of the longest days of the year. I was also enthusiastic that I would be covering 4-5 miles out/back and roughly 4,000 feet elevation change. Excellent cardio workout and also fabulous immune system boost. And, simply a challenging hike that would put me in some of the most spectacular country in the West!
As I hiked around Silver Lake and then up the trail to beautiful Twin Lakes, I was ecstatic to see wonderful summer wildflowers and snapped a few pictures. I continued to beautiful Twin Lakes, a roughly 800 foot rise in about 1 mile. A few more pictures and I was pushing towards Twin Lakes Pass, Mount Tuscarora and then to my intended destination for the evening, Mount Wolverine. The hiking is steep but on a nice trail most of the way. That is, until I reached the base of Mount Tuscarora. It’s a 50-55+ degree slope and above timber line at our latitude in Salt Lake City. Picking my way gingerly up the slope was a great workout and I arrived there at 8 PM. Excellent time! I checked my IPhone and noted I had about 30 minutes to hike the Mount Wolverine cirque and summit Mount Wolverine.
The air was crisp and a sharp breeze was blowing as a I arrived at Mount Wolverine’s 10,700+ summit. I searched the horizon for other gorgeous peaks and could see 11,700+ foot Mount Timpanogas to my south and also 11,330 foot Twin Peaks in a westerly direction from me. Both were still covered in large patches of snow from the preceding winter and were stunning. I was deeply moved by the beauty and snapped some pictures with my digital camera. I looked at the time as I squinted into the breathtaking sunset blazing on the western horizon. I needed to get going to make it off the steep mountain in good time at sunset to avoid using a flashlight.
The sun was lowering on the horizon as I headed back down trail. Mount Wolverine has some very steep terrain (including class 3 terrain for seasoned climbers) and needs to be negotiated carefully. There were still prominent areas of snow that only made the scene all the more stunning as I hiked out. As I made my way around the cirque I was taken aback once again by the shear majesty of hiking, particularly hiking at sunset. I’ve hiked to Mount Wolverine many times and I am still stunned by its exceptionally rugged beauty. Little did I know that I was going to encounter two beautiful mountain goats…and with a backdrop of snow and rugged beauty that can only be found in the highest peaks of the Cottonwood Canyons.
The link between exercise, particularly outdoor exercise, and improvement in mood has long been known. There is something about being in the mountains or backcountry that seems to speak to us and help boost our desire to improve. When working with the men that we see at LifeSTAR for pornography addiction, we speak regularly about what we call “self-care.” Part of self care is taking care of oneself through physical exercise. We ask our clients supportivly to make physical exercise a part of their “dailies.” Other areas include being fit in the following areas:
It stands to reason that if someone struggling with addictions becomes physically healthy through hiking and other outdoor exercise, they will benefit in these four areas. When we exercise we push more blood flow through our brain making us more cognitively alert. I’m also keenly aware that when I’m in the backcountry I feel much more connected to God and am often moved deeply on a spiritual level. I definitely feel more emotionally aware of how I’m feeling and interact more supportively with my wife and family. Further, my mental health is shored up as I take care of myself so that I can perform the tasks of my busy week. Additionally, I’ve also met some very cool people on the trail, including those from France, England, and from all parts of the country. Awesome!
As I’ve blogged previously, “Exercise??? Why NOT exercise!” Please give it a consistent and serious try…it really works! Particularly for those who want to be happier, energetic and more genuine in their lives.
Michael Boman, LCSW, is the Clinical Director of LifeSTAR Oquirrh and England Counseling Services in Magna, UT. Michael blogs and speaks often on subjects related to mental health, addictions and families. Michael can be reached at Michael@Englandcounseling.org for comment.