The world’s booming interest in rock climbing can confuse those who have only skimmed its surface. Many only see the great heights, nasty falls, and the ostensibly adrenaline-driven climbers. However, if you ask rock climbers why they like climbing so much, the answer you will often hear will include words like “happy” and “community.”
While rock climbing is notorious for being dangerous, there are safer types that can greatly benefit mental health and keep one’s mood more upbeat and positive.
No two people are the same, and what I will describe here is a mixture of science, personal experience, and the views of other climbers that I have come to meet.
How does rock climbing affect happiness?
Climbing in its rawest form consists of physical exertion—exercise. Studies show that when you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins connect to receptors in the brain, lifting your mood and making you happier.
More in-depth than the rewarding physical challenge, climbing is also a game, a puzzle in which you have to figure out how to get to the top without falling along the way. The journey to the top is packed with sweat, perseverance, and dedication. Once you reach the top, the rush is fantastic, lifting the spirits to an almost incomparable level.
Additionally, perhaps even more important than reaching the top, is enjoying the climbing itself. Many connect to the way it feels to grip tightly onto the rock, feel their shoes hug their feet, and feel their harness supporting their legs. It is an experience like no other, one that is accessible to many and welcomes all.
What is the effect of the climbing community?
Whenever I go rock climbing, I rarely go simply to climb. Instead, I go to see my friends and talk to new people. In general, climbers tend to be very sociable and friendly, always ready to offer their tips and two cents on anything, whether it be climbing or something else that fills the gaps in life.
Rock climbing marries the sport with the people, giving those who desire an identity utterly separate to that of race, gender, religion, and any other identifier from birth. This sense of community and belonging is a very powerful tool that can keep you grounded. It can connect you both to yourself and others, allowing you to choose your own path, interests, and way of life.