Doctors Explain how Hiking Helps Our Mental Well-Being

It's time to get out of the concrete jungle.

While it is general knowledge that time spent hiking in the great outdoors can put your mind, body and soul at ease, doctors are discovering that it can actually change your brain for the better.

In an article by Collective Evolution, they explore the ways hiking can better our minds, especially those dealing with anxiety and depression. The initial content derives from a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that found that time spent in nature can reduce negative, obsessive thoughts significantly.

In the study, they compared the rumination of participants who hiked through urban vs. a natural environment (rumination, in psychology, is the compulsively focused attention on the symptoms of one’s distress).

Hiking In Nature Can Stop Negative Thoughts

In the study, they found that those hiking in a natural environment for 90 minutes reported lower levels of rumination while those who hiked in an urban environment didn’t report any change.

Taking ourselves out of urban spaces to spend time in the natural environment can greatly help our general well-being, both physically and mentally, researchers report.

Photo by Moyan Brenn

Technology-Free Hiking Boosts Creative Problem Solving

Creative problem solving is greatly boosted by disconnecting from technology and immersing yourself in nature.

In a study conducted by psychologists Ruth Ann Atchley and David L. Strayer, they organized participants to backpack through nature for four days, without technology. They were asked to complete a variety of tasks which demanded problem solving and creative solutions. The results were incredible. The performance of their problem solving skills improved 50% in this technology-free hiking trip.

The researched note that urban noise and technology are extremely disruptive that prevent us from focusing. A hike can greatly increase creative thinking and soothe your mind.

Your Brain Is Stronger After A Hike In Nature

In a study from the University of British Columbia, they found that aerobic exercise increases spatial and episodic memory in women over 70 and can help prevent memory loss.

Photo by Amar Dhari

Did you know?

1. Hiking can reduce stress and anxiety, boost self-esteem, and release endorphins.
2. Urbanization is closely related with increased cases of depression and other mental illnesses.
3. Hiking in nature can improve ADHD in children.

So get yourself out into the world and start hiking. Learn more over at Collective Evolution and check out some of our best places to take a hike in Toronto!

(Main photo courtesy of Loren Kerns via Flickr)