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Science Says Walking In Nature Changes The Brain

Science Says Walking In Nature Changes The Brain

Want to live a happier life and have a more productive work day? Take the scenic route to work. The concrete commute that most city dwellers experience on the daily may be having a larger impact on the psyche than you think. Beyond the concrete jungle that we more and more fail to escape on a regular basis exists an environment that may help you combat stress, depression, and anxiety.

Walking In Nature Helps Depression And Anxiety

The isolation of being locked up in offices and high rise condominiums is being linked to psychological disorders including depression, anxiety and a short attention span at work. New York Times article, How Nature Changes the Brain by Gretchen Reynolds, found that people who live in cities spend more time ‘brooding’, a term meaning a renumeration of thoughts in your mind as to what is wrong with yourself and your life. The study compared those who lived in high density urban settings to those who had more exposure to greenery and trees.

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Walking In Nature Improves Your Attention and Focus

So what if you don’t have a park on the route to work or cannot give up the highway commute? There is still hope. The Journal of Environmental Psychology suggests that even small mental breaks viewing nature can help aid off psychological issues such as reduced attention span. The study looked at subjects that viewed either concrete or green spaces and found that the ones who viewed the natural environment made less errors and were more consistent responding to given tasks. Living and working surrounded by thousands of people and concrete drains your mental resources that are critical for attention. While in opposition, viewing trees, parks, and green spaces on a regular basis, helps create a more calm and active mind.

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Viewing Nature Helps Your Mind Escape Everyday Concerns

So how does nature help with depression and anxious feelings and give us a greater sense of focus? From a logical perspective it makes sense that being surrounded by thousands of people, heavy traffic, and concrete would make us feel more anxious, and unhappy. But why would nature have such a large effect on our brains? Nature gives the brain a sense of calmness and peace. The presence of trees, water, and open spaces of greenery transitions the mind into feeling an escapement from everyday concerns. It brings the simplicity back into life. Nature literally changes the brain.

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And not only are the people who have more exposure to natural settings mentally healthier, but they also enjoy a higher quality of physical health as well. A convincing example in the New Yorker, What a Tree is Worth, by Alex Hutchinson,  showed that patients given hospital rooms that looked over spaces with trees as opposed to a brick wall, recovered faster. In fact , researchers are discovering that surrounding yourself with nature can be one of the most powerful stress-relievers out there.

As unlikely as it is to take a twenty minute detour for a scenic route or to move to a park surrounded area, there are small changes that you can implement into your life today. Change your desktop background to outdoor scenery or hang visual art of the sky and ocean on your wall. Spend more of your breaks outside, plan more trips to the park or runs along the water. Vote in favour of green roofs, and of course make an effort to get into nature and enjoy it. We tend to complicate the cures for anxiety and depression when in fact being in a calm and natural environment may just be what you need.

Featured photo credit: A Couple Walking in a Park via flickr.com

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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