The Surprising Side Effect of a Winter Hike

Why you really need to spend more time outside, no matter how cold it gets

Go hiking, then come home and write the Great American Novel? Spending two days hiking in the Tetons might not turn you into William Faulkner, but research published in PLoS Onesuggests that a few days in a national park may make you more creative in other ways.

The study followed 56 hikers on a four-day hike, without their laptops, cellphones, or any other technology, and the authors found that spending time communing with nature boosted the hikers' creativity by 50 percent, based on the results of a creativity test they took either before they left or toward the end of their journey.

It's all about giving your brain a break from the daily grind of technology and stress, says the study's lead author David Strayer, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Utah. "The human mind is heavily influenced by the environment we're in," he says. "It's not useful to become a slave to technology." Disconnecting from social media, cellphones, computers, and stress allows your prefrontal brain circuits, which are associated with creativity and higher-level thinking, to get restored.

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