It was a cold January Sunday morning when I decided to go on a 6-mile hike through the Kent countryside.
There had been a lot of rain and many of the fields were flooded.
Thankfully there was no rain and there was the occasional blue sky.
In this video, I explain why I love hiking and why it is good for your mental health.
Why is Hiking Good For Your Mental Health – Video
Why is hiking good for your mental health
Hiking in nature has been shown to provide several mental health benefits.
Here are a few examples:
- Reduces stress: spending time in nature can reduce stress levels. Hiking in nature can help to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and can lead to increased feelings of calmness and relaxation.
- Improves mood: hiking in nature can improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression. Being in nature has been found to increase feelings of happiness and contentment, and can provide a sense of peace and tranquillity.
- Boosts cognitive functioning: Spending time in nature can also enhance cognitive functioning, including attention, memory, and creativity. Hiking in nature can help to clear the mind and reduce mental fatigue, leading to improved cognitive performance.
- Increases physical activity: Hiking is a form of physical activity, which has been shown to have numerous mental health benefits, including reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, and improving overall mood.
Hiking in nature causes several changes in the brain such as:
- Increases in activity in the prefrontal cortex: The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain responsible for executive functions, such as decision-making, planning, and problem-solving. Studies have found that spending time in nature, including hiking, can increase activity in the prefrontal cortex, which may lead to improved cognitive functioning.
- Reductions in activity in the amygdala: The amygdala is the part of the brain responsible for processing emotions, including fear and anxiety. Research has found that spending time in nature can reduce activity in the amygdala, leading to reduced feelings of stress and anxiety.
- Increases in activity in the hippocampus: The hippocampus is the part of the brain responsible for memory formation and learning. Studies have found that spending time in nature, including hiking, can increase activity in the hippocampus, which may lead to improved memory and learning.
- Increases in dopamine and serotonin levels: Hiking in nature has been shown to increase levels of dopamine and serotonin, which are neurotransmitters that are involved in regulating mood and emotions. Increased levels of these neurotransmitters may lead to improved mood and reduced feelings of depression and anxiety.
There have been many studies that have shown why hiking is good for your mental health. Here are a few examples:
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that participants who took a 90-minute walk in a natural environment reported lower levels of rumination (a pattern of repetitive negative thinking associated with depression) than those who took a walk in an urban environment.
A 2008 study in the journal Psychological Science found that participants who took a 50-minute walk in a natural setting performed better on a cognitive task than those who took a walk in an urban setting. The authors suggest that exposure to nature can improve cognitive functioning and may provide a potential therapeutic intervention for individuals with cognitive deficits.
A 2019 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that participants who engaged in a six-day wilderness backpacking program reported significant reductions in symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as improvements in emotional regulation.
These studies and others suggest that hiking in nature can have a positive impact on your mental health, and can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and help you regulate your emotions
Bratman, G.N., Daily, G.C., Levy, B.J. and Gross, J.J., 2015. The benefits of nature experience: Improved affect and cognition. Landscape and Urban Planning, 138, pp.41-50.
Berman, M.G., Jonides, J. and Kaplan, S., 2008. The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. Psychological science, 19(12), pp.1207-1212.
Barton, J. and Pretty, J., 2010. What is the best dose of nature and green exercise for improving mental health? A multi-study analysis. Environmental science & technology, 44(10), pp.3947-3955.
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