Naturally happier by doing one simple thing

New study shows that walking in the park changes the brain.

When was the last time you strolled through the park or took a walk in nature? If you haven’t done an hour of Earth time recently, it’s time you do. We’ll tell you why. 

Urban Life

There’s something magical about a big city. The movement of the people and cars meandering around big buildings and busy sidewalks pulsates a unique energy. Whether you choose a big city for your vacation or a place to plant your roots, you are sure to have copious amounts of activities and sites to explore. There is also a high dose of auditory and visual elements experienced. The senses are excited – or are they stressed?

Urban areas draw in nature’s colors and textures with shade trees and bush-lined thoroughfares. But nature isn’t close to home. Fewer lawns and a busy life can leave people without a regular connection to Mother Earth. More than half of the world’s population lives in cities, compared to 60 years ago when only one third did. This means that less people are living in or around natural landscapes. While city life has it’s conveniences and appeal, it may also have negative consequences. Turns out there is a psychological effect from being disconnected from nature.

There is a sunrise and a sunset every day and you can choose to be there for it. You can put yourself in the way of beauty. (Wild, the movie)

Nature Changes the Brain

Studies show that city dwellers have a higher risk for anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses. How do we fix this health issue? A recent study posed the question: Does experiencing nature actually change our brains in some way that affects our emotional health? 

Time Magazine covered the study by Emmett Interdisciplinary Program graduate student Gregory Bratman. Bratman was curious about the psychological effects of urban living and found that “volunteers who walked briefly through a lush, green portion of the Stanford campus were more attentive and happier afterward than volunteers who strolled for the same amount of time near heavy traffic.”

He went a step further with this research and looked at the part of the brain that broods. Brooding is defined as showing deep unhappiness of thought and is found to be disproportionately common among urbanites.

Bratman and his team monitored blood flow to the subgenual prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain that has increased blood flow during rumination). He gathered 38 city dwellers and had half of the volunteers walk 90 minutes through a quiet, lush parklike area and the other half walk next to a noisy multi-lane highway. Both sets of volunteers walked alone at their own pace and could not listen to music

The results proved his theory that a quiet retreat into nature does alter the brain and elevates the mood. 

So when life is chaotic and your mind can't stop the negative spinout, take a moment to get quiet and take a walk. Connecting with nature is the easiest way to become naturally happier. It's been proven. 

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