Various studies have aimed to investigate the effects exposure to natural settings has on depression and other mental health issues. Personally, I find it calming and uplifting to get out into nature, even if just for a day hike. Luckily, being in Perth, Western Australia, there are a plethora of trails, hikes and nature spaces all within a short travelling distance.
So, because we had a bit of a break in the weather, 26 degrees down from the usual 35 degrees, the family decided to head back out to nature for a day trip on the Bibbulmun Track. The track runs from Perth to Albany Western Australia, but has numerous sections suitable for day hikes, or overnight trips. For more information, check out https://www.bibbulmuntrack.org.au/.
Today’s section was an 18km “there and back again” trip from the Brookton Highway to the Canning hut; the Bibbulmun has a series of huts set up for those walking through, including huts, “long drop” toilets and basic fire/cooking facilities. The start of the section is marked, with plenty of room for parking your vehicles off to the side of the Brookton Highway.
This section contains a lot of elevation and declination, with a variety of surfaces including rock, pea gravel and soft sand. Suitable footwear, as well as food and water is a necessity. A basic first aid kit is also recommended; better safe than sorry. Soft tissue injuries are a possibility, and in summer, snakes are prevalent.
About four kilometres in you will find Abyssinia Rock, a large black, rocky outcrop. In hot weather, you will find various lizard species sunning themselves on the rocks
I always feel refreshed after a walk through nature; here’s the science behind it.
In a 1991 study by Ulrich et al, controlled laboratory studies demonstrated beneficial psychological and stress/physiological impacts of nature images and sounds. Further, Cross-sectional and longitudinal research has found that the psychological well-being of a population can be associated, in part, with its proximity to green space, blue space (i.e., aquatic and marine environments), and street trees or private gardens in both urban (Dadvand et al, 2016) and rural areas (Alcock et al, 2015).
In longitudinal studies, as well as natural and controlled experiments, nature experience has been shown to positively affect various aspects of cognitive function (Wells, 2000) memory and attention (Berman et al, 2012), impulse inhibition (Taylor et al, 2002, and children’s school performance (Dadvand et al, 2015), as well as imagination and creativity (Khan & Kellert, 2002).
Nature experience has been associated with improved sleep (Grigsby-Toussaint et al, 2015) and reductions in stress, as assessed by self-report and various physiological measures and biomarkers of acute and chronic stress (Hartig et al, 2003). These impacts on sleep and stress may entail decreased risk for mental illness, as sleep problems and stress are major risk factors for mental illness, especially depression (Hammen, 2005). In addition, there is growing evidence that nature experience is associated with a decreased incidence of other disorders including anxiety disorders (de Vries et al 2016), attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (Roe & Aspinall, 2011), and depression (Beyer et al 2014).
Next time you get the chance, get out to nature, whether it be the local park or a nice long hike in a national park or state forest. Just might do you the world of good.
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