We’re all aware of the numerous physical effects that a hike can have on our bodies, but we rarely stop to think about how it might be impacting our minds. Numerous studies have shown that a wilderness hike can actually have amazing effects on our mental wellbeing, and even change its chemical makeup for the better.
Whether you’re partaking in a Sunday afternoon hike through the local parklands, or have a three-month wilderness trek planned, your brain is going to be all the better for it. With everything we now know about the importance of keeping our minds active and cared for, there’s never been a better time to start hiking for your mental health.
It’s believed that when you spend time in nature and away from computers, smartphones, driving, and all of the common multitasking we partake in, your brain is able to rest. This period of rest allows it to return to function better than ever, thanks to the wonders of nature.
A cognitive psychologist from the University of Utah has been studying the effects of getting into nature on our brains. As our brains often become stressed and overworked, it’s important to take time out and slow down so that they can recover and rejuvenate all over again.
His research has found that participants in the study performed 50 percent better on creative problem-solving activities after a three-day hike, which signals a massive improvement for how your brain works. If you don’t have time for a three-day hike, though, there’s no need to feel disheartened.
A recent study by a graduate student at Stanford University showed that even if you don’t have time for a day-long hike, just getting out into nature for a short period can help. The study proved that those students who walked briefly through a green part of the campus grounds were more attentive and happier in class afterward than those who didn’t.
This means even when you don’t have time to plan for a full day or weekend of hiking, getting just a little bit of nature can have a huge effect. When you’re at work, for example, try to aim for just 15 minutes of time in surrounding green environments and see if you can feel the difference.
One of the common activities we do as humans is to overthink, and doctors call this process rumination. Possible side effects of rumination include binge eating, anxiety, and depression, so tackling it has never been more important.
Studies have found that hiking in nature or simply spending time out in the wilderness can reverse rumination and lead to a decrease in anxiety and depression. Hiking in nature has also been shown to reduce negative thinking and improve your outlook on life significantly.
With more and more distractions being placed in front of us in modern society with technology and devices taking over every space of our lives, it’s crucial to take the time to get away from stressors such as these and let our minds relax. Hiking is the ideal way to do this, and with a whole range of other benefits to be had as well.
Along with the huge advantages hiking has on our mental wellbeing, it’s also incredibly important for our physical health too. Those who partake in regular exercise, and even larger spurts of activity such as hiking, have a reduced risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Hiking can also strengthen and condition your body, placing you in peak physical condition while doing an activity that’s actually enjoyable. There’s no need to join an expensive gym or weight loss program when you have the free beauty of nature to be your trainer.
Just one hour of hiking can burn up to 500 calories, thanks to the tough terrains and inclines found on your average trail. When you consider the huge benefits it can have on your mind as well, it’s never made more sense to get started with this popular pastime.
Many of us become so focused on exercising our bodies, we forget that our brains need activity too. The best way to achieve a workout on both body and mind is a wilderness hike, effectively killing two birds with one stone.
Hiking enthusiasts will often attest to the feelings of content and joy they get during and after a hike, and it’s not hard to achieve these for yourself. Just one simple hike each month, even in your own neighborhood, will be enough to restore your mind for the day to day tasks that can sometimes get us down.