While some people prefer the sights and sounds of busy urban areas, a recent study has shown that it might not be the greatest idea for dealing with your mental health. The research studied whether an hour long nature walk could improve the mental health of participants suffering from clinical depression.
According to a science called Attention Restoration Theory, those who spend time in peaceful natural settings and therefore not bombarded with loud distractions, can allow their brains to fully relax which can drastically improve mental health.
For this small study, 20 people with clinical depression (which included 12 women and eight men with an average age of 26) took part in a walk that involved taking an hour long stroll in a quiet natural setting, and then an hour long walk in a noisy, higher populated area. Prior to each walk, participants completed testing to determine their mental health at the time, and were asked to think about a painful memory.
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Following both walks, participants were to take part in a series of mental health tests to measure their attention levels, and short-term and working memory. The results were interesting to say the least. Researchers found that overall, nature walks meant a 16 per cent increase in attention and working memory compared to walks in the more noisy metropolitan areas, but the mood of the study participants improved in both types of walks.
This isn’t difficult to imagine, considering those suffering from depression are often noted to have high levels negative thinking, but that doesn’t mean that researchers weren’t skeptical that a simple “walk in the park” or anywhere else for that matter could provide any real relief from such a serious and well documented series of symptoms.
This is not the first time that researchers have thought getting your body moving could be a key ingredient to optimizing your mood. Many theories suggest that while consulting with your healthcare practitioner any time mental health is involved, the idea that you could exercise lower levels of depression away. Exercise overall can stimulate the secretion of chemical endorphins. It is also recommended that exercising outdoors could give you a daily dose of sunlight which can mean vitamin D, which could give you a natural blast of serotonin.