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This Is What Happens To Your Brain When You Walk In The Woods

This Is What Happens To Your Brain When You Walk In The Woods

Humans are designed to be outdoors. Our brains are wired to respond to the smells, sights, and sensations we receive there. When we spend daily time outside it makes us healthier and happier. Want to start walking in nature more often? Here are a few facts to inspire you.

Stress decreases in nature

Cortisol is a hormone often used as a stress marker by doctors (too much means you are too stressed) and studies have found that students who had spent time in the forest had a lower level of cortisol than their counterparts that stayed indoors. Office workers who have a view of nature out of their window or through a skylight report higher job satisfaction and lower stress levels and hospital patients who have a view of nature actually heal more quickly. Stressful states can be relieved by “forest therapy”.

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Short-term memory increases

In a study done by University of Michigan one group of participants took a walk around an arboretum (a zoo for trees) and the other half walked down a paved city street; when both groups did a memory test before and after their walks, those who had walked among the trees did almost 20% better then they had done before they had gone for their walk. The results were not the same in the city walking group.

Mental energy is refreshed and restored

When you take a 15 minute stroll in nature or gaze at the stars from your rooftop your slow down and feel a connection to something bigger. This sense of connection helps stabiliaze moods and reduce stress. When you leave nature you feel restored, refreshed and vital. A recent study found that walks in the forest were especially associated with decreased levels of anxiety. Clinically this can be used to supplement existing treatments for major depressive disorder. Another study employed land-use data and satellite technology to discover that access to green space within a half mile of one’s residence is associated with improved mental health.

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Thinking becomes sharper and concentration improves

We know that time in nature is restorative but it also improves concentration; the effect on attention of nature is so strong that children with ADHD were found to have been been more able to concentrate after just 20 minutes outside. When college students were asked to repeat sequences of numbers by memory they were much more accurate at performing this task after they had a 20 minute walk in nature. One of the reasons for this might be transient hypofrontality. EEG studies show that creative individuals exhibit transient hypofrontality when engaged in the solution of creative problems. This means that the brain is actually using different areas to think through problems when you are outside versus inside.

Positivity increases

In a study done by David Suzuki it was found that when participants spent 30 minutes each day in nature, the results were increased personal well-being and happiness. One of Dr. Suzuki’s associates, physician Eva Selhub, explored this connection between nature, human health and happiness in her book Your Brain, On Nature: The science of nature’s influence on your health, happiness and vitality. (I recommend reading it at the beach or on a park bench.)

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Barriers Break Down

A report published in Lancet about a nationwide study in the United Kingdom discovered green space is a profound equalizer of health inequalities. When low income areas were associated with little access to green space, there were significant health disparities between lower and higher socio-economic brackets. This gap was bridged when low-income individuals had access to green space close to home and spent time in it daily. Nature helped to fill in the broad health divide between the affluent and the at-risk.

In today’s climate where we often define ourselves by how busy we are, spending a little time in nature each day goes a long way towards increased vitality and it will help your brain to keep you happier, healthier and more productive.

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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