You may not know this about me, but I love a good hike through a forest or up a mountain. Maybe you happened to see my previous post on hiking in the Rockies. It’s not only the physical challenge, but when I finish a hike, I feel like my mind, body and soul have been renewed. I recently found out I’m not alone. Science is discovering that hiking can actually change your brain…for the better!
If you’ve ever returned from a hike or camping trip to have a clearer mind, you know exactly what I’m referring to. Today, so many of us live in cities and have a tendency to spend far less time outside in nature than people did several generations ago. There have been studies shown that urban dwellers with little access to natural spaces can have a higher risk on our overall wellness than people living outside urban areas.
Just think about it. In the book of Genesis, God created man and woman and then created vegetation (the Garden of Eden): seed-bearing plants and trees. We are created to be in the outdoors. Some of us love to spend as many hours of
the day in the outdoors as we can. I know when I was working in an office, I continued to look out the window – wishing I was outside. How about you?
This is amazing! It turns out hiking just might be the way to revitalize your brain. Most of us recognize that hiking or walking is obviously a healthy exercise for our body but we usually don’t give a lot of thought to how it could benefit our spiritual and psychological health as well. Our brains are wired to respond to our senses – smells, tastes, sights, sounds and sensations. Spending time outside everyday and making these connections with nature can make us feel happier and healthier. It’s even being studied as a way to help increase your ability to store information, improve your memory and reduce memory loss.
I know that when I go for long periods of time without getting out in nature I feel down and disconnected. This is when I become consumed by negative thoughts. A recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that spending time in nature can decrease obsessive, negative thoughts significantly. This study also showed that people who walked for 90 minutes in nature, as opposed to those who walked in high-traffic urban settings, had less negative thoughts.
It is important that you know that for your overall health (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) you need to take the time to remove yourself from the concrete, brick and carpeted life and spend more time in nature. Shut off your smartphone. Don’t text or respond to emails. You can take your phone but only for the use of the camera. Don’t worry, Facebook will be there when you get back and you’re not going to miss anything important. Am I right?
Of course, there will inevitably be those times when you are not able to get into nature physically as much as you feel the need. The next best thing is to use essential oils. It is at these times I will reach for my Young Living Idaho Balsam Fir, Idaho Blue Spruce, Northern Lights Black Spruce, Pine, Evergreen Essence or any other single or blend I associate with walking in nature – everybody is different. Young Living therapeutic grade essential oils are the pure essence of nature. To enjoy their fragrance, you can smell them directly from the bottle, add essential oils to a diffuser, or put a few drops on a cotton ball and place in an air vent. If you would like to use the essential oils topically, you can apply a drop or two neat or diluted to the wrist, back of the neck, crown of the forehead, or even the bottoms of your feet, depending on your choice oil. When in doubt, always dilute and apply to the bottoms of your feet. You can refer to your essential oil reference guide for more details.
Give it a try and see how it affects you. Let me know in the comments!