“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Henry David Thoreau’s famous words from Walden is some of the most beautiful writing we can cherish today. Studied and admired from all different levels of intellect, Walden is a piece of work that brings us closer to the woods, and the simple natural life that Thoreau so wished we all could see.
And maybe he was onto something. The ability to write so deeply and vividly may actually stem from all the time Thoreau spent outside. In researching the health benefits of hiking, studies show that spending extended time outside actually boosts creativity. The study, published in PLoS ONE journal, entitled, Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings, concluded that there were some definite lifestyle changes we needed to make. People are spending more time indoors, facing TVs and computers, and closing the door to nature.
When immersing the participants in the study into nature for four full days without multi-media and technology, performance on creativity and problem solving tasks were increased by 50%. The results find that there is a cognitive advantage to be realized when we spend time immersed in nature, “We anticipate that this advantage comes from an increase in exposure to natural stimuli that are both emotionally positive and low-arousing and a corresponding decrease in exposure to attention demanding technology, which regularly requires that we attend to sudden events, switch amongst tasks, maintain task goals, and inhibit irrelevant actions or cognitions.” As a whole, the environment we choose to surround ourselves with can majorly affect the way we think and behave. By surrounding ourselves with trees, flowers, sunshine, and natural beauty, and getting rid of the abundance of appliances, our minds can benefit substantially.
And not only does the beauty and simplicity that Thoreau strived for, help with our creativity, but also the act of walking, in general. Published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, a study found that people who walk more are actively more creative. There was about a 60 % average increase in creativity of those who walked as opposed to those who sat.
The act of hiking, which can be just simply moving and being out in nature, can inspire you creatively. Who knows, maybe your time outside will inspire something as deeply meaningful as Walden.