Most people who have been on a hike will agree, it feels good. You’re exercising, accomplishing a goal, doing something different, but what happens to our brains? Why does it feel so good? Maybe science can help us figure this out. A new study suggests that nature reduces activity in parts of the brain that cause mental illness. Just a 90 min walk in nature could keep your brain a little bit healthier. The great outdoors is also known to help your creative side. “Exposure to nature can restore prefrontal cortex-mediated executive processes” (whoa! wait, what?) Let’s break that down. Executive functions restored by nature include attention control or how long you choose to focus attention on something. Inhibitory control, the function to complete a particular goal. Working memory, reasoning and problem solving are also part of the brains executive functions that might be aided by a nature hike. So aside from nature helping you focus, complete a goal or be more creative, why does it feel good?
Some research says that physical benefits of hiking go far beyond cardiovascular health even though lower blood pressure isn’t anything to shake a stick at. It is shown to reduce depression and aids in healthy weight loss, but by far hiking is the best chance to connect with yourself and that sure does feel good. A common thread in all of this research is that getting away from technology and our day to day work is key for happiness and health. So, find yourself on the trail and loose the smartphone, you’ll be fine!