We all know that hiking provides a great physical workout. However, the psychological benefits of hiking are often overlooked.
In the modern ‘fast paced’ world, it’s easy to neglect your mental health. Finding an activity that gives you relief from the daily ‘grind’ is vital if you want to maintain balance and stability.
Here at SnowSunSee, we believe that spending time in nature can give your mind the relaxing break it most probably requires. To back up this claim, we’ve listed the top 10 mental health benefits of hiking.
#1 Hiking Can Lower Your Risk Of Depression.
Did you know that spending just 90 minutes walking in a natural environment could reduce stress, calm anxiety and lead to a lower risk of depression?
A team at Stanford University conducted a study that compared walking in a natural area with walking in an urban setting. They found that the nature hikers decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression.
The world is fast becoming one of concrete jungles and exhaust fumes. Studies show that urbanization negatively affects mental health through increased stressors, overcrowding and pollution.
In the modern age, it’s important to get out and seek nature when possible. Hiking is a great way to achieve this, giving you a purpose to get out of the city and back in touch with your mind.
Whether you’re aiming for a multi-month thru-hike or a 90-minute stroll in the woods, the psychological benefits of any type of hiking should not be overlooked.
#2 Hiking Can Enhance Your Creativity.
We all know that tasks can become frustrating over time. With the constant distractions of noise and notifications, working with efficiency is becoming increasingly difficult.Fortunately, there is a cure to your lack of focus. Hiking! Click To Tweet
A study published in 2012 looked at how immersion in natural settings improves creative reasoning. It sent a group of hikers into the wilderness for 4-6 days without technology and studied its effects on their cognitive function.
Upon returning from their trip, the hikers showed a 50% increase in their ability to perform problem-solving tasks. These results show the undeniable psychological benefits of hiking.Next time you’re feeling stuck, lacking focus or suffering from writer’s block; just take a hike. Click To Tweet
#3 Hiking Is A Revitalization Tool.
You probably already know that taking a break to refresh your mind is important. But did you know that hiking is one of the best ways to improve your vitality?
Hiking is one of the best ways enjoy the outdoor natural environment while performing physical activity. A 2011 study by Environment Science & Technology showed that this is a great way to improve your mental health.
The study compared exercising indoors with outdoor physical activity. The outdoor group showed greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement, decreased tension and increased energy.
The outdoor hikers showed greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity. They also declared a greater intent to repeat the activity at a later date.If you want to refresh your mind, improve your energy and get an overall sense of satisfaction; it’s time to hit the trail. Click To Tweet
#4 Hiking Can Improve Self-Esteem
It’s possible to let trauma, mood disorders, anxiety or relationship issues get on top of you at times. These feelings can lead to low self-esteem and a general feeling of reduced confidence.
Fortunately, the cure might be simpler than you thought. If you’re looking for a deep sense of self worth, it might be beneficial to get out and hike.
A study published in the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal studied the effects of hiking on the psychological wellbeing of 57 people. After 9 weeks of activity, they assessed the results and found a significant increase in self-esteem.
The same study also saw significant reductions in anxiety and depression. This data shows that the psychological benefits of hiking are numerous and effective.
#5 Hiking Can Maintain Healthy Brain Function.
It’s estimated that 1 billion people worldwide are vitamin D deficient, including 41.6% of adults in the U.S.
Vitamin D is commonly known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’. The best way to get your daily intake is to spend plenty of time in the sunlight, which has become increasingly difficult in the modern world.
According to studies cited in Scientific American, low vitamin D levels can cause cognitive impairment. In the study, the test subjects with the lowest levels of vitamin D exhibited slower information-processing speed. It also noted that the correlation was strongest among men older than 60 years.
If you’re looking for a way to get your vitamin D fix, why not give hiking a try? It’s a great way to get the prolonged dose of sunshine required to maintain a healthy mind.
#6 Hiking Can Make You Happier
If you want to be happy, take a hike! That’s what researchers at the University of Sussex are suggesting anyway…
In 2010, they conducted studies into ‘green exercise’ and its affects on mental health. The findings were of course positive, showing that just 5 minutes of green exercise resulted in mood and self-esteem improvements.
There are countless studies that prove the undeniable links between physical activity and happiness. Doctoral candidate Weiyun Chen, who reviewed 23 studies on happiness and physical activity, provides a great summary of these links.
“Our findings suggest the physical activity frequency and volume are essential factors in the relationship between physical activity and happiness,” Chen said.
“More importantly, even a small change of physical activity makes a difference in happiness.”
The main point here is that you should get out and explore. Even if you can only clear a small amount of space in your diary, be sure to make time for that day hike you deserve.
#7 Hiking Can Improve Your Emotional Health.
Emotional health is a huge part of your overall wellbeing. ‘Emotionally healthy’ people are in control of their behaviours, feelings and thoughts.
One of the best ways to organise your emotions is by going hiking. Getting out on the trail gives you a sense of separation from your daily life. It gives you the space to evaluate, analyse and accept your emotions.
According to one study, ‘hiking is a low-cost, accessible intervention to promote health benefits’. It goes on to say that time in nature can lead to the ‘restoration of mental and emotional health’.
If you’re dealing with emotional situations, taking a hike is one of the best ways to clear your mind. It can help you to become a more balanced and measured person that acts with positivity and emotional maturity.
Thoughts From The Author
The psychological benefits of hiking are a big part of what makes it such a fantastic activity. It’s profound ability to clear your mind and lift your spirits make it an underrated mental health tool.
As the world becomes developed, mental health issues have also become more common. By heading outside and hiking, you are taking the opportunity to step away from the stresses of modern life and get back in touch with nature.
I advise that you get out and spend as much time on the trail as possible. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
James is the founder of SnowSunSee. He started skiing when he was five years old and has been a qualified ski instructor for 8 years. He has taught skiing in many countries, including UK, Europe, Japan, China and Malaysia. When he’s not on the slopes, James spends his time travelling the world one trail at a time.