Spending time in nature — aside from being one of life’s greatest simple pleasures — comes with a whole host of mental health benefits, from lower stress levels to reduced depression and anxiety to improved memory and focus.
Now, new research from the University of Montana suggests that going camping or taking a hike may also be helpful for combatting addiction, as researchers found that being exposed to nature led people to behave less impulsively and exercise greater self-control.
What explains this effect? It’s likely that the calmness and tranquility of natural landscapes reduces stress levels and promotes relaxation, which results in a feeling of time going by more slowly or a sense of having free time. In turn, this more expansive sense of time may encourage us to consider the relative benefits of future over immediate rewards.
“When our perception of time is expanded, this may help to bridge the gap between present choices and future consequences,” Dr. Meredith Berry, a psychologist at the university and one of the study’s authors, told The Huffington Post in an email. “Such expanded time perception may enable us to favor long-term healthier behaviors, rather than immediate gratification.”