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Take a Hike! (even a short one!)

By Paul Collura

Technology has made the world a more interconnected place, and the benefits of our digital society are immense. However, the demands presented by the seamless amount of information at our fingertips can be distracting and create a loss of focus. And, as we spend more time interacting with media and technology, we are spending less time participating in activities in nature

Cognitive functions including attention and problem solving are heavily utilized in our modern society, potentially placing a tremendous impact our mental health. A 2012 academic study showed that immersion in nature has enormous restorative effects. More specifically, after four days of immersion in the outdoors, a group of hikers fully disconnected from multi-media and technology, showed increased problem-solving ability by a full 50%. The results demonstrated that there is a cognitive advantage spending time immersed in a natural setting.

Don’t have four days to disconnect completely? A different study showed that participants who went on a 90-min walk through a natural environment reported lower levels of rumination and showed reduced neural activity in an area of the brain linked to risk for mental illness compared with those who walked through an urban environment.

So the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, have an important decision to make, or can simply use a moment of mental clarity, go for a hike or even just take a  nature walk. Your mind and body will thank you.