walking in nature

With more and more people deciding that busy, bustling cities are an ideal place to live, the idea of going on long country walks surrounded by Mother Nature is long forgotten. However, a new study has found that walking in nature can reduce negativity and clear your head.

The study was carried out with 38 people, 19 of whom went on a 90-minute walk in an urban setting on one of the busiest streets in Palo Alto, and 19 who went on a walk of the same length of time, in a green, natural setting near Stanford. Not surprisingly, the participants who walked through nature had lower repetitive negative thoughts about themselves than the other group of participants.

Before and after taking their walks, all participants were asked to complete a questionnaire and, in addition, they were asked to take part in brain scans to determine the level of activity in areas linked to increased risk of mental illness.

Mother Nature News reports that “[S]tudies have confirmed that spending time within a forest setting can reduce psychological stress, depressive symptoms, and hostility, while at the same time improving sleep and increasing both vigor and a feeling of liveliness. These subjective changes match up nicely with objective results reported in nearly a dozen studies involving 24 forests—lower levels of cortisol and lower blood pressure and pulse rate.

Whilst urbanization is linked with an increased risk of mental health problems, as supported by this study, it is unclear why the two are linked. At this stage, we can only suggest why living amongst nature over built-up urban areas is better for general mental health and well-being. Factors such as fresher air, less people and stunning countryside views are apparent influencers when it comes to increased happiness and decreased negativity in natural, green settings such as forest or a series of fields.

Gregory Bratman, a doctoral student at Stanford University claims the new-found results add to the “increasing body of evidence that nature experience provides cognitive and mood benefits” and that the stresses related to living in a city can act as “a buffer against possible negative repercussions of rumination for some people.

I know that for me, personally, being amongst nature and taking long walks in the countryside can do wonders for my mental health and therefore, general well-being but these new found results confirm what I thought I knew. Do you enjoy long walks in the countryside? If you’re based in an urban, city setting – it’s time to get out the walking shoes and take a hike in the nearby countryside. If you do, let me know the difference it makes!

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I'm a psychology student with a passion for books, good food and movies. I can often be found reading self-help articles snuggled up in bed with a cup of coffee or writing about anything and everything in a quiet cafe somewhere.