Hiking in nature is a great way to clear your mind and stay fit, but science now proves it can actually change your brain. Recent studies have found hiking can improve your brain function to reduce negative thinking and boost creativity and problem solving.

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Hiking Eliminates Negative, Obsessive Thoughts

Immersing yourself in the great outdoors can ease stress and heighten your mood, but a new study shows it can even help you stop ruminating— or overthinking and dwelling on situations and life events. Rumination is linked to mental illness, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as binge-drinking and binge-eating.

The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found spending time in nature can lower negative, obsessive thoughts by a sizeable margin. The researchers aimed to find out the impact of nature on the mind. They compared the thoughts of urban dwellers who walked through an urban environment for 90 minutes with those who walked through a natural environment. Those who walked in nature reported fewer negative thoughts. They also had less neural activity in the part of the brain associated with mental illness, known as the subgenual prefrontal cortex.

Hiking Enhances Creativity and Problem-Solving

Disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with nature can increase creativity and problem-solving, according to a study conducted by psychologists Ruth Ann Atchley and David L. Strayer. Participants went on a four-day tech-free backpacking excursion, and were asked to perform creative-thinking and complex problem-solving tasks. The researchers found their performance on these tasks improved by 50% after hiking through nature.

The researchers noted that technology and urban noise are constantly demanding our attention and inhibiting our focus, which strains our cognitive functions. Going on a peaceful nature hike, while cutting ties with technology, can be just what you need to recharge.

Hiking May Lessen ADHD Symptoms in Children

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHA) is becoming increasingly common among children. Those with ADHD exhibit hyperactivity, inattention, and difficulty focusing.  It often arises in childhood, with symptoms continuing into adulthood. While medication is typically prescribed to ADHA patients, a study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found exposure to green outdoor activities like hiking can drastically reduce their symptoms. This suggests anyone with difficulty concentrating or controlling their impulses can benefit from spending time in nature.

Hiking is a fun and healthy activity suitable for all ages and fitness levels. So, strap on your hiking boots and go exploring!

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