Tuesday, February 23, 2016
A Walk In Nature is Good For the Mood
Thoreau extolled (and extolled and extolled—the piece was more than 12,000 words long) the virtues of walking in untamed environments. In the decades since, psychologists have proved him right. Exposure to nature has been shown repeatedly to reduce stress and boost well-being.
But scientists haven’t been sure why. Does it have to do with the air? The sunshine? Some sort of evolutionary proclivity toward green-ness?
A group of researchers from Stanford University thought the nature effect might have something to do with reducing rumination, or as they describe it, “a maladaptive pattern of self-referential thought that is associated with heightened risk for depression and other mental illnesses.” Rumination is what happens when you get really sad, and you can’t stop thinking about your glumness and what’s causing it: the breakup, the layoff, that biting remark. Rumination shows up as increased activity in a brain region called the subgenual prefrontal cortex, a narrow band in the lower part of the brain that regulates negative emotions. If rumination continues for too long unabated, depression can set it.
After some preliminary tests, half the participants walked for 90 minutes through a grassland dotted with oak trees and shrubs (“views include neighboring, scenic hills, and distant views of the San Francisco Bay”). The other half took a jaunt along El Camino Real, a four-lane, traffic-logged street in Palo Alto. The nature walkers showed decreases in rumination and in activity in their subgenual prefrontal cortices. The urban walkers showed no such improvements.
Read more at: How Walking in Nature Help Reduce Depression