Going for hikes is fun; so fun in fact that some people admit they are addicted to hiking. It’s a good addiction to have, after all the more you hike the better shape you’re in, and according to recent research you’re likely happier too.

50% of the population lives in urban areas, and by 2050 that percentage will presumably jump to 70%. While urbanization makes life more convenient it’s also associated with increased levels of mental illness. Research published by PNAS investigated the connection between rumination (repetitive negative thought processes associated with mental illness) and whether people experienced the same amount of negative thoughts in nature as in urban environments.

EarthPrints/Michael DeYoung

Participants who went on a 90-min hike through nature experienced decreased rumination as well as decreased neural activity in parts of the brain linked to mental illness. Participants who went on a 90-min walk through an urban area experienced none of these same benefits.

EarthPrints/David Lee Thompson

That means simply going for a hike out in nature a couple times each week could boost your overall happiness and wellbeing. But that’s not all…

Another study published by PLOS found that people who went on a 4-day backpacking trip in a natural environment experienced a 50% increase in problem solving skills. Participants in this study were banned from using any technological devices and instead left to resort to their critical thinking and problem solving skills. This means that being out in nature away from technology and urban life helps decrease mental fog and stress while stimulating creativity.

PNAS study: http://www.pnas.org/content/112/28/8567
PLOS study: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0051474

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