Oh, Go Take A Hike, Would Ya’?

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What is with the world today? Media is everything. Media is everywhere. Media is king. Nature and true friendships have been thrown to the wayside. The word “friend” doesn’t have the same meaning as it once did. What does the word “friend” mean to you?

I can say that I have hundreds of friends. Here, check out my “friends” list on Facebook. Can you honestly say that you have real, meaningful relationships with your Facebook friends? Do they really care about you or what happens in your life? Would they be there for you when you really needed them? Just because someone “likes” your posts, your photos, your memes, and your thoughts in digital format does not constitute a true relationship.

As a society, we have become complacent with doing so much by ourselves, taking a selfie of what we are doing, and sharing it with our digital so-called friends and constitute that as hanging out or sharing our experiences. It’s bullcrap.

I have attempted on a multitude of occasions to invite people to actually gather and do things face-to-face. However, only a select few actually do. It also appears to be the same few people every time as well. These are my true friends. These are the people that I have real meaningful relationships with. These are the people that would be there for me when I really need. What happened to that? What happened to true significant relationships? I had a lot of other friends from prior years that used to be real friends; and now, the only communication we have is through Facebook or the occasional one phone call every few months that lasts about two minutes and ends with “we should actually get together soon.” Very rarely does it actually happen.

I posted a few posts lately on Facebook to try and see if my “friends” actually wanted to get together and do things. I tried suggesting a local kayak or canoe trip in the future with no actual date set yet and didn’t even hear one response. I did get a couple of likes but that doesn’t mean crap. I tried putting together posts inviting people to go on a camping trip or to go out and hikes. I got, again, no response. I invited people over for a barbecue in my backyard, and what do you think happened? I’m sure you guessed correctly; a bunch of likes but very little responses. However, this one, I did get some responses from people interested, but as the day got closer, more and more people dropped out, and only one person actually showed up. What is with people these days? I bet that I would get a bigger response if I invited people to play video games online. It’s ridiculous. It blows my mind.

Don’t people want to get out of the house? What about having barbecues? What about getting their kids together at the local beach or park? What about pool parties? Why is it so tough to get people to hang out in person? I understand that we are older, but that does not mean you have to remain a shut-in. That doesn’t mean that you have to stay at home. Your Facebook profile will be just fine if you leave it for a day. We, as a society, need to get out more. We need to have actual face-to-face conversations. It is what we were meant to do as human beings. The internet has released us from our responsibilities as people with meaningful relationships.

I truly believe that this is one of the main causes of today’s high divorce rate, and leading most people to lead single lives. It’s a lot easier to have fewer responsibilities and not have to put in much effort to sustain a real relationship. It’s a lot easier to have virtual friends that you can share only the best parts of your life with, and leave out the worst parts. This may soon be the demise of the human race. We have become so superficial and selfish, so self-centered that we have lost what it means to be real friends and deeply care about others.

Okay. On the other side of the coin, we as a human race are losing the battle to keep our Earth a natural, beautiful thing. We are losing the battle to Industry, Government, and Media. I find it disturbing that most people would much rather sit at home on their couch like a bump on a log and binge-watch endless TV shows and then talk about those shows over and over and over again. This is why our society is becoming more obese, more delusional, more disturbed, and more depressed. These are all clearly associated with too much time spent indoors.

There is a cure. There is a solution. There is scientific proof that nature affects our bodies and brains in a positive light. I’m guessing that you probably already grasped the fact that I live and breathe nature. I have been an avid hiker and outdoor explorer for the majority of my upbringing. I have always loved the way the peacefulness of a forest walk has allowed me to clear my mind and make myself happy. I have always felt that nature had many psychological benefits, but I didn’t realize how much science there was to back me up.

There is real scientific evidence that nature has many benefits. Being in nature has a profound impact on our brains and our bodies, our behaviors and our abilities to process information. Spending time in nature can allow us to lead much healthier and enjoyable lives, both mentally and physically. Let me break it down for you, scientifically proven.

Stress is all around us in today’s world. The stresses of work, family, the home, social media, etc., etc., etc. A good walk in the woods can help reduce stress. A 2010 study published in Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine, for example, found dramatic differences between participants who walked through and viewed an urban city environment and others who walked through and viewed a forest. They found that those who walked through the forest had significantly lower levels of cortisol (also known as the stress hormone), blood pressure, pulse rate, and heart rate after their bit with nature. This was tested by swapping the participants, and this was proven the other way around as well.

A 2012 study published in PLOS One, found that creative, problem-solving functions increased by 50% after a four-day nature immersion. The increased exposure to natural stimuli and decreased exposure to attention-demanding technology have great cognitive effects and benefits.

I’m sure you have also heard of the Attention Restoration Theory, which was first developed by Rachel and Stephen Kaplan, and published in 1989 in the book The experience of nature: A psychological perspective. ART asserts that spending time in nature, or even just viewing pictures of nature, can improve concentration.

A 2008 Study from the University of Michigan, found that not only does a walk in nature improve creativity, but it also improves memory, specifically short-term memory. This was expanded on the Attention Restoration Theory by Stephen Kaplan himself. The study explains how a group of students who were given memory tests showed a twenty percent improvement after walking through botanical gardens and Arboretum, where those who walked through the urban streets showed no improvement.

Two different Studies in 2012 found that nature reduces inflammation in the body. Increased inflammation is associated with a wide range of problems including autoimmune disorders, depression, inflammatory bowel disease, and even cancer. One Study published in Biomedical and Environmental Sciences, found that college students showed reduced inflammation after spending two nights in the forest compared to those who spent two nights in the city. Another study published in the Journal of Cardiology, found that elderly patients, after a weeklong trip the forest showed lower levels of inflammation as well as positive effects on their hypertension.

Did you know that nature also helps the body to fight off infectious organisms? This is something that is still in the early phases of research but is beginning to shine some positive light on the subject. For example, research from a 2010 review in Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine, noted that “all of these findings strongly suggest that forest environments have beneficial effects on human immune function.”

Yet it is still being studied, spending time in nature may actually stimulate the production of anti-cancer proteins. Studies in Japan as published in the International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, have pointed to lower mortality rates from a wide variety of cancers are prevalent in areas with greater forest coverage.

When you come across someone in a horrible mood, you should give them one great piece of advice. Tell them to “go take a hike.” It may sound mean, but it is actually a scientifically proven great piece of advice. A 2015 Study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, found people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural environment showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression or bad moods.

All of these studies are just a few needles in the haystack of other scientific studies that prove the psychological, physical, cognitive, and health benefits that a walk through the woods can provide. There are reasons that people are fighting to support and sustain our National and State Parks, the untouched natural land that has been set aside for us and future generations. This system has been put in place to retain the natural land that was fought for by such people as John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Stephen Mather, and George Melendez Wright, as well as many more. The list is too long to list them all, but it just goes to show how important the National Park system truly is to our history and our future.

I will continue to say it over and over again but remember to take your soul outdoors. It’ll thank you.

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