Author: Yacin Zawam

Yacin Zawam

Hiking And Mental Health: The Therapeutic Benefits of Nature Walks

Yacin Zawam Northwest Arkansas
Yacin Zawam of Northwest Arkansas

Everyone knows that hiking is a great way to exercise, but the benefits extend far beyond the physical. How does hiking promote better mental health?

Hiking or walking in natural landscapes is linked with better mental health in three distinct areas. Spending time in nature regularly can lower stress levels, minimize negative self-thoughts, reduce the risk of depression, and even alleviate symptoms of anxiety.

Below, Yacin Zawam of Northwest Arkansas investigates nature’s ability to improve mental health in more detail.

Mental Health Benefits of Hiking

As urbanization levels rise across the globe, rates of mental illnesses are also increasing. People who live in more rural environments are much healthier in mind and body, and luckily, urban residents can reap the benefits of country living with the addition of walks and hikes in nature.

Lowers Stress Levels

Hiking lowers stress in several ways, and everyone can benefit no matter the intensity of the trail. Natural sounds such as chirping birds, rustling leaves, and flowing streams are incredibly soothing and can help people relax. Physical exertion also releases chemicals in the brain that lower stress and make people feel good.

High stress levels can be incredibly damaging to mental health, and luckily, hikes are one of the easiest ways to combat stress effectively.

Minimizes Negative Self-Thoughts

Interestingly, studies have shown that people walking in urban environments are much more likely to spend their time ruminating on negative self-thoughts than individuals walking in natural areas. It follows that hiking regularly will maintain self-confidence and self-worth since those negative thought patterns do not have the opportunity to gain a foothold in the brain for very long.

Since mental illnesses like depression are exacerbated by negative self-thoughts, spending time in nature frequently can help improve and maintain mental well-being.

Reduces the Risk of Depression

Depression is one of the most pervasive mental illnesses in modern society, and it is theorized that the rise in urbanization is one of the main causes of this. Studies have documented the effects of natural areas on depression and identified promising results: people who spend time in nature have less activity in a part of the brain that is linked to depression.

This means that the effects nature has on improving symptoms of depression (and preventing it in some cases) are happening on a physiological level.

Yacin Zawam Northwest Arkansas

Alleviates Symptoms of Anxiety

People with anxiety are frequently in a fight or flight state, and this means their body is producing way more adrenaline than it needs. As a result, it accumulates and creates tons of tension in the body’s muscles while also contributing to anxiety.

Hiking is the perfect solution for these problems in the body; the physical exertion helps to release muscle tension, and the endorphins produced by the activity and exposure to nature help improve mood and lower anxiety.

Final Thoughts

The conclusive benefits of hiking in nature for improving mental health give credence to the idea that urbanization is linked to the rise in mental illness. Increasing access to natural areas will help city populations improve their mental health and live better lives.