Take a hike. A long hike.

forest-trees-pathMost people feel calmer after a walk in the woods. But, there is more to it. Hiking in greenspace, away from urban noise and with your phones off (or put away) is good for your brain.

Although walking for an hour or two feels good, this study tested adults who backpacked in rural areas for 4-6 days, without technology. They were pre- and post-tested using the Remote Associates Test (RAT). This is a test used to measure creative thinking and insight problem-solving. After controlling for variances in age, the results were a 50 percent increase in creative thinking and insight problem-solving.

(I don’t know if this will help, but play this.)


Our modern society is filled with sudden events (sirens, horns, ringing phones, alarms, television, etc.) that hijack attention. By contrast, natural environments are associated with a gentle, soft fascination, allowing the executive attentional system to replenish. In fact, early studies have found that interacting with nature (e.g., a wilderness hike) led to improvements in proof reading [and other cognitive tasks.]… One suggestion is that natural environments, like the environment that we evolved in, are associated with exposure to stimuli that elicit a kind of gentle, soft fascination, and are both emotionally positive and low-arousing.

In short, it seems our brains are not designed to be as stimulated as we are in our current society. Not only the electronic stimulus of computers, phones, lights, and video, but also car horns, sirens, and other sudden auditory alarms common in towns and cities. More study is underway.

Exposure to nature may also engage what has been termed the “default mode” networks of the brain…(important for peak psychosocial health.) The default mode network is a set of brain areas that are active during restful introspection and that have been implicated in efficient performance on tasks requiring frontal lobe function such as the divergent thinking task… On a hike or during exposure to natural stimuli which produce soft-fascination, the mind may be more able to enter a state of introspection and mind wandering which can engage the default mode.

Question-markSo, we are designed to be in this default mode. When we use multimedia, we are externally focused. There is concern that both adults and children spend too much time with electronics which tax our brain’s executive function. Children spend far less time outdoors than they did a generation ago. Many use computers and tablets before school age.

Consider a long trip through natural environments for your summer vacation. It will help you think more creatively and problem-solve more easily.

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