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Tell Yourself To 'Take A Hike' Instead: Boost Your Brain Power And Generate Positive Thoughts

Tell Yourself To 'Take A Hike' Instead: Boost Your Brain Power And Generate Positive Thoughts

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Sep. 13 2022, Published 1:15 p.m. ET

It's already been proven that spending 10-30 minutes a day basking in the sunlight is good for the body - physically and mentally (while wearing sunscreen of course). Time outdoors naturally clears your mind and lowers stress levels. And, evidence has also been found that taking a hike can do even more.

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Back in 2010, scientists at the University of Pittsburgh discovered that going on "a stroll three times a week can increase the size of the hippocampus," a.k.a the brain's memory hub. So, with that being said, your hike doesn't have to be an 8 hour adventure up the mountains of Lake Tahoe. A long walk down a nature path in your home town will also do the trick.

Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills

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Going on a hike or a walk through an unknown (safe) area without technology to guide you can improve your problem solving skills. (Talk about a resume builder too, huh)

Previously, researchers conducted a study which sent two groups of backpackers on a four-day hike. One group had cellphones and other forms of technology to assist in getting them from point A to B. The other group had no technology at all. If you're sitting here thinking of all of the reasons why you'd prefer to stay connected with the outside world and be in the technology guided group, pause for a moment.

The study concluded that although the technology was helpful in getting from point A to B, it actually lowered the cognitive function of that group because it came with so many distraction. Whereas the group who had nothing to guide them but their brains and each other improved their problem solving skills and creative thinking by a whole 50 percent.

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All in all, you should absolutely carry your cellphone with you no matter the difficulty of the hike but, keep it out of sight and out of mind. Only use it for emergency purposes.

Your Memory Could Depend On It

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The 2010 study from the University of Pittsburgh concluded that "greater amounts of walking are associated with greater grey matter volume, which is in turn associated with a reduced risk of cognitive impairment."

Grey matter is the outermost layer of the brain which plays a significant role in how we function, retaining memories being one of those things.

The study found that the volunteers who were more active or walked the suggested amount per week (40 minutes three times a week) cut their risk of memory impairment in half. In fact, the Natural Resources Institute Finland recommends five hours of nature a month, which you can split into short weekly walks, to better your mental health and memory.

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Location, Location, Location

As they say, location is everything. And yes, it even matters for your daily walks. It's good to get out of the house and into the outdoors but don't shift from one stressful spot to another. Effectively eliminate your stress and negative thoughts by taking your walks deep into nature - a hiking trail, a nature park, etc - rather than near traffic or a busy area.

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Pack Accordingly

No matter where you take yourself, make sure to bring the essentials for your health and safety.

Important items to put on your list include:

  • hydration tools
  • proper clothing
  • accessories and tools (map, flashlight, wrist ID, etc.)
  • bathroom assistance (location specific)
  • sun protection
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