The trail makes me happy. Even after hours of running, sweating, chafing, bugs, thorns, etc. The trail makes me happy. Is that odd? Am I odd? Or, is it possible that there is a bit of science at work? What senses are stimulated by a little time on the trail and what benefits should we expect from that stimulation? Let’s do some digging…
Touch – I know what you’re thinking. “Poison Ivy. Thorns. Stinging Nettle. Bug bites.” Am I right? (Stay on the path and use bug spray, you’ll be fine) But, there is SO much more. Take sunlight for example. It does more than just cause skin-cancer. (Which I have had a couple times, by the way… Insert sunscreen plug here) Consider sunlight a little Vitamin D pill. Vitamin D, by the way, is a crucial ingredient for overall health. It’s known to protect against inflammation, it can help brain function, it can assist in lowering blood pressure, and may even protect against cancer. (Ironic, I know…) We are built to be in the sunlight; some more than others, for sure. Exposure to sunlight is known to help reduce stress, battle depression, encourage weight-loss, and even improve your quality of sleep!
Smell – I have spent the last 15 minutes sorting through about 45 different fart-jokes. Mainly because I find myself running, half the time, with a gassy vegetarian! (I won’t mention Brendan’s name) Flatulence aside, the scents consumed from a day on the trail are impressive on their own, but considering their positive impact on your well-being is even more so. Pine, for example, can significantly lower depression, hostility and anxiety levels. Lavender offers a similar response. Cut grass is known to increase happiness and offer a sense of calm. Notice a trend?
Sound – Seth Horowitz, an auditory neuroscientist at Brown University, has written books on the subject of sound and it’s impact on our emotions. And, it makes perfect sense. The sounds associated with the trail; birds singing, a light breeze, a mild rustling of the leaves, babbling stream — count me in!
Taste – I don’t recommend it.
Sight – I could spend a lot of time on this. But, for the sake of time, I will just turn it over to my friend Derren Herman. Derren has recently taken some awesome pictures while spending time on the Rocks and Roots Trail at Alum Creek. Take a look!
That is all. Get out. Get happy!