A recent test confirmed what I've known for quite some time: spending vacation time in nature dramatically improves one's higher-level cognitive behaviors. In other words, an intense hike in the Himalayas will do far more for your strategic and creative thinking than will a bottle of Red Stripe and a book at poolside.
The research, conducted by psychologists at the University of Kansas and the University of Utah studied the impact of hiking in particular on creativity. I won't bore you with the particulars, but researchers separated the test subjects into two groups: one took the cognitive test before a four-day hike: the other took it immediately afterwards. The research showed that "that four days of immersion in nature, and the corresponding disconnection from multimedia and technology, increases performance on a creativity, problem-solving task by a full 50 percent."
Researchers were startled, to say the least. “Some combination of disconnecting from the constant rat race of multitasking and interacting with nature showed significant restorative properties,” says co-author David Strayer. “When you clear your mind, you come at a problem from a new perspective, and the solution becomes obvious.” Amen, brother.
I stumbled across the very same observation about eight years ago. After years of traveling to every U.S., Caribbean and Mediterranean resort imaginable, lying on a beach or at poolside and finding my mind working overtime trying to figure out what was happening back at the ranch, I decided to give mountain climbing a shot. I've never mainlined heroin, but I can tell you my addiction to nature was instant and profound.
Since that initial experience, my son and I have ice, rock and mountain climbed around the world. And, in each instance, I've come back totally refreshed and eager to re-engage in the trials and tribulations of my dual life as an entrepreneur and PR guy.
Hiking or climbing provides a total sensory experience: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. It's cleansing in every sense of the word. So, I know when my stress levels start to mount and my creative juices begin to dry up, I need only contact Art Mooney to find relief. One might call Art my Mountain Connection. You can find him at (www.mooneymountainguides.com).
Art's one of the top guides in the world, and he ensures that I push my mind and body to the absolute limit while discovering new and drop dead gorgeous vistas.
So, note to any and all students, workers and, most importantly, bosses: if you want a truly creative workforce, I suggest you, and the troops, forget about a week on the beach at Del Boca Vista and, instead, schedule a few days' worth of mountain and rock climbing (or just plain hiking) along, say, the Appalachian Trail or Nevada's Red Rock Canyon. Oh, and there's one other benefit: a few days of hiking and climbing is a whole lot less expensive than a three-day weekend in Bermuda, Jamaica or St. Croix.
There are hiking trails and mountain climbs for any, and all, levels of fitness (or, non-fitness for that matter). So, there's really no excuse not to see what nature can do for you.
Try it. You'll not only like it. You'll come back completely re-energized and ready to come up with a Silver Anvil award-winning creative idea. And, that's what I call a win-win.