The Benefits of Hiking for Our Brains
The crisp, cool wind on our backs, warming sun on our face, and eyes glimmering with the reflections of endless beauty.
Many of us have never experienced the true beauty of the wild.
We live in large cities or rural areas far removed from the pristine landscapes and experiences found within the wilderness.
Our battle has traversed nature and now become our own:
- Mental Illness
We are, after all, animals. Our departure from green spaces to urban environments have taken a toll on our mind, body, and soul.
Those lucky to have experienced a stroll through nature are quick to exclaim how it has lead to tranquility.
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. … There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
The benefits of hiking go beyond the simplicity of the activity. We know, deep down, that we feel better after having experienced a disconnect from the modern world. Now we have scientific proof.
Care to journey on?
The Psychological Benefits of Hiking
It’s not a term you hear often but one that makes immediate sense.
Doctors have begun expressing the need for a trip into nature. They’re calling them “nature prescriptions”. A way to provide alternative health help to those experiencing psychological distress and disorders.
Culling the rumination
Rumination is when your mind sticks to a stream of negative thoughts.
These thoughts tend to create anxiety and depression (among other mental health issues). Hiking creates a distraction from these negative thoughts. It aids in reducing neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex.
It means that it helps shut off a part of your mind.
The combination of scenic beauty, less noise, and fewer interactions with others has a tremendous impact on our mental state of well-being.
Exciting the mind
Time spent on (and off) the trails boost creative problem-solving.
We place ourselves into situations which cannot be solved by modern conveniences when hiking (for the most part). This excites the mind.
The reduction of noise has also been proven to increase our productivity and focus. What better way to clear your head than to go into nature where it’s unlikely you’ll run into another soul throughout the excursion?
Hiking has been proven to help individuals with ADHD. The activity keeps their focus yet excites them to remain dedicated to the activity and goal.
Tapping the creativity
Have you ever stared at clouds or trees blowing in the wind and suddenly felt the urge to create a song or paint a beautiful piece of art?
We love technology in our modern society. Yet the constant connection, dings, alerts, and onslaught of information is an overload.
There’s too much to process and because of this — we ride along rather than taking a time to allow our minds to wander and daydream.
Hiking is a disconnect
When we disconnect we’re able to set a focus. In a way, it’s like yoga or practicing mindfulness. We dwell on these happy, creative thoughts. It builds and builds.
This isn’t mystical mumbo-jumbo.
Scientists at the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences (United States) have conducted studies finding 90-minute walks to decrease rumination.
They have found a decrease in depressive thoughts. It is becoming a new norm to develop healthy psychological habits for an individual.
The Physical Benefits of Hiking
Mental health improves physical well-being. Physical health improves psychological well-being. It’s a win/win!
Hiking can be strenuous. No doubt.
It’s a wonderful activity for many reasons when working toward improving the physical well-being:
- Improving heart health and stamina – Hiking is a strenuous activity. Livestrong places hiking at 430-440 calories burned in an hour of hiking for an individual at 160lbs. Calorie loss goes up with weight. It also depends on the intensity. Hiking steep inclines will keep the heart elevated which drastically improves cardio! The hike pushes your limits. You set out and must accomplish your goal versus the ease of hopping off a treadmill or set of weights.
- Increasing muscle & tone – Long distance hiking will help tone the body. Climbing steep hills, rocks, crossing rivers, and clearing brush do wonders for increasing muscle mass. Consider a trip to a park or uncharted area for an hour long trip versus the gym.
- Decreasing blood pressure/sugar – The combination of cardio and improved muscular health will lower blood pressure and reduce blog sugar levels. It can be an HIIT workout if you choose to make it. This builds upon itself. The better control on blood pressure/sugar the healthier you become. This leads to additional time and opportunities to hike!
Imagine how increasing physical appearance would improve your confidence. Or how increasing your stamina would allow you to enjoy more of life.
These are the benefits of hiking that manifest in your personal appearance. The mind reflects this well-being creating a win/win activity for the entirety of you!
Planning Your Next Hiking Adventure
There’s a romanticization about leaving it all behind and venturing off into the great unknown of nature. It’s a beautiful, and wonderful thought yet it’s great to plan and understand what’s to come.
Nature, as beautiful as it may be, is wild.
The best way to gain the benefits of hiking is to do it safely.
Prepare yourself by using the right understanding of hiking tips:
- Stay hydrated & well-charged from foods
- Bring navigational gear in the event you’re lost
- Watch the weather to avoid troublesome trips
- Choose the right hiking clothing and supplies
- Create an emergency plan in case
…and most importantly: have fun!
Soon you’ll feel the benefits of hiking. There is a glow like no other.
Nature creates an unparallel experience that allows you to disconnect, build confidence, and test your physical stamina. It’s one activity that is fulfilling to the mind, body, and soul.
Over to you…
What has caused your interest in hiking and the great outdoors? Have you seen benefits to your physical and mental well-being? Share your thoughts (or suggestions) in a comment below!