Enhance Your Brain Power—Hit the Trail

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For millennia, people have settled in southern Colorado for the abundance of its natural beauty. Many of Palmer Land Conservancy’s publications feature General William Palmer's eloquent words, “Could one live in constant view of these grand mountains without being elevated by them into a lofty plane of thought and purpose?” For generations, visitors and those who call southern Colorado home have shared a similar connection to the marvelous landscape. Now, the emerging field of environmental neuroscience seeks to explain how and why time spent in natural environments can improve our creativity, memory, and mood, just to name a few of the benefits.

A recent Guardian article highlights several new studies seeking to better understand the various mental benefits of being in nature. Research cited in the article reveals exposure to nature benefits mood and enhances cognitive performance. A specific study reported a remarkable 20% improvement in cognitive performance after a 50-minute nature walk compared to an urban setting. Another compelling finding indicates a 50% increase in creativity following a four-day technology-free hike. 

White Asters grown along the edge of a narrow trail with evergreen in the background

Beyond featuring the latest studies, the article concludes with tips for rapping the most mental benefits from your next outing:

  • Aim for at least 30 minutes of nature exposure for measurable benefits, with longer-term experiences offering additional advantages.
  • Avoid using technology during your nature time to engage with the environment fully.
  • Consider the timing of your nature experience; one study suggests that the cognitive boost lasts for 30 minutes after leaving the natural setting, potentially aiding in planning mentally taxing tasks.
  • Choose a pleasant and engaging natural venue. According to Prof Kathryn Williams, an environmental psychologist, factors like a sense of safety, attention restoration, stress reduction, and psychological distance from burdens contribute to positive nature experiences.

As the article concludes, “This growing body of research is demonstrating that we can’t be healthy – that our brains do not work optimally – if we don’t spend time in natural environments. It’s not a luxury – it’s a necessity.”
For countless generations, we’ve felt and experienced the restorative mental and physical benefits of connecting with nature. And new emerging science and data reinforce how essential it is to protect land and water for the well-being of nature and people. Become a member of Palmer, and together, we can ensure future generations will thrive from immersive outdoor experiences in southern Colorado and beyond.