One of the best mental health medications is free! Yet another reason to love nature.
A study conducted by Stanford University shows that taking a walk in nature can reduce depressive symptoms.
As new apartment complexes and office buildings keep popping up around us, it seems increasingly challenging to get away from it all. We spend less time outdoors than ever before. Even when we do find ourselves on a break from emails and meetings and in dire need of some fresh air, we nevertheless find ourselves surrounded by traffic, construction and pollution. More than 50% of the world’s population now lives in urban areas, and that’s expected to grow to 70% in the coming years. Just as urbanization grows, so, too, does our disconnect to the great outdoors.
In fact, “city dwellers have a 20% higher risk of anxiety disorders and a 40% higher risk of mood disorders than people in rural areas. People born and raised in cities are twice as likely to develop schizophrenia.”
Researchers conducted the study on 2 groups of participants. Group one walked for 90 minutes in nature, and group two walked for 90 minutes along a 4 lane road with traffic. The study was geared toward understanding if nature could influence rumination (the constant repetition of negative thoughts towards oneself).
As the participants returned, researchers collected data on their physical and mental conditions. While both groups showed similar data in their physical conditions (heart rate and respiration rates), brain activity showed the most significant changes. Group one reported lower levels of rumination and neural activity associated with that part of the brain.
Lead author of the study, Gregory Bratman stated:
“This finding is exciting because it demonstrates the impact of nature experience on an aspect of emotion regulation – something that may help explain how nature makes us feel better.”