How Walking in Nature Changes the Brain

Science Proves What Nature Lovers Have Known All Along

An interesting new study making waves throughout the internet demonstrates that a simple walk in Nature can have a profound impact on the physical structure of the brain.

Unfortunately most people are flocking more and more towards the city, which is generally a climate of stress, anxiety and depression, all of which are also backed up by various studies.

All of this seems to be linked according to the research.Numerous studies suggest that city life with little access to nature always breeds psychological issues. While those who do live in the city, but have access to a park or some form of Nature have more mental stability and appear to be less stressed out, as well as happier.

Although the studies have certainly made this clear, how exactly Nature is able to have such an impressive impact on the brain remains a mystery.
Graduate student, Gregory Bratman, at Stanford University, has been working hard to figure this out. In a study published last month, he and his fellow scientists found that volunteers who walked, even if just briefly through an area  of the Stanford campus that is green and full of Mother Nature's beauty, they were actually more focused and happier afterward than the volunteers who did not. This study, however, did not examine the neurological effects that might be inspiring the positive effects of being in nature.
In a new study, which was published just last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Bratman decided to closely probe what exact effect a walk would actually have on a person’s proclivity to "brood" which is basically obsessively thinking about that which is wrong in our lives.

Studies thus far have shown that "brooding", which often precedes depression, is overwhelmingly higher in city dwellers than those who have access, or live in Nature.

For this study the team gathered 38 physically healthy adult urban dwellers and had them complete a questionnaire to determine their usual level of mental wellbeing.

In addition to this, the researchers also checked for brain activity in each of the volunteer’s subgenual prefrontal cortex. Then the team randomly selected half of the volunteers to walk for 90 minutes through Mother Nature and the other half next to a loud highway. The volunteers were allowed to walk at their own pace but not allowed to have companions, music or any distractions.

After the task was complete, the volunteers came back to the lab and repeated the questionnaire and the brain scan. 

Predictably the results showed that those who walked by the highways were stressed out and  those who walked in Nature were happy and at peace. In short, the mental wellbeing of the people who spent time in Nature was not only noticeably better but it also was according to the brain scans.

Although there is still lots research to be done to understand if there are certain times of day that are  better than others, or just how long of a duration is most effective, the studies by his colleagues, and people before them, clearly prove that spending time in Nature is good for the brain and overall mental wellbeing of the individual. Most people who spend time in Nature obviously did not need a study to prove this, but it's always nice to see how things work scientifically.

So what does this mean for your life? MAKE TIME for Nature, and encourage your loved ones to do the same. It's free therapy!

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