Trails for all, trails forever: How trails promote positive mental health

Ernest Saeger | Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance
Trails for all, trails forever: How trails promote positive mental health

Imagine you are on your favorite trail on a beautiful summer Colorado day. Your attention is focused on the mountain views, the sun shining on tall aspens, the softness of the dirt under your feet or on your bike tire, and the sound of birds singing. You are completely absorbed and present on a trail and with nature. You do not want to be anywhere else in the world except for right there and now. You completely forget about all your worries and the busy world we live in, not thinking about these things for a second.

The trail has taken you to your flow state. Simply imagining yourself on the trail and in nature more than likely makes you happier. Are you smiling right now?

Trails have many benefits for our community including economic, transportation, livability, conservation, and environmental. But the most impactful benefit that trails provide to us may be for our health, both physical and mental.

Trails connect us to nature. Spending time in nature is linked to many positive mental health outcomes including improved focus, lower stress, better mood, and a reduced risk of developing a mental health condition. Furthermore, research evidence shows that contact with nature is associated with increases in happiness, subjective well-being, positive affect, positive social interactions and a sense of meaning and purpose in life, as well as decreases in mental distress.