Nature Walks Reduce Symptoms of Depression
Can peaceful nature ease a troubled mind? According to a team of American and Canadian researchers, it probably can.
A group of clinically depressed subjects were assigned to take a solitary hour-long walk along one of two routes: along a noisy urban street or along a nature trail.
- Before the walk, each subject was tested for short term memory function, attention and mood and before beginning the walk each subject was asked to think about a difficult and unresolved emotional situation.
- At the end of the walk, each subject was tested again on attention, mood and short term memory function.
- A week later, each subject repeated the procedure but took the opposite route.
- Subjects on the nature walk showed a 16% greater improvement in memory and attention than subjects on the urban walk
- Subjects on both types of walk showed an equal and significant improvement in mood after the hour long walks
The researchers say the results replicate findings from earlier studies that show the power of nature to improve working memory and attention.
What happens, they say, is that while walking in noisy urban environments we are overwhelmed with external stimuli which strain our attention and working memory systems. In more peaceful natural environments we experience no such overstimulation and so our attention and memory systems can relax and are restored. In nature, we may experience moments of quiet contemplation, which also help to boost mental performance.
Lead researcher Dr. Marc Berman commented on the possible significance of the results, saying, “Walking in nature may act to supplement or enhance existing treatments for clinical depression, but more research is needed to understand just how effective nature walks can be to help improve psychological functioning.”
The full results can be found in Journal of Affective Disorders
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