Researchers suggest the best remedy to break the cycle of depressing rumination is to go for a walk in the woods.
The researchers noted the importance of this study in their paper, writing that “[urbanization] is associated with increased levels of mental illness, but it’s not yet clear why.” They say with more than 50 percent of people living in urban areas and a predicted 70 percent moving to cities in 2050, they believe it's important to understand how scientists can mitigate these effects. One of the ways they believe is to get a little nature.
The researchers demonstrated their idea in a small study out of Stanford University. They began by gathering a group of people from the Bay Area and giving them a survey to figure out how prone the participants were to dwelling on negative thoughts. The participants were then split into two groups: One was sent out for a 90-minute walk in a “natural setting,” while the other group was sent for a 90-minute walk in an “urban setting.”
The walkers then met back at the lab where researchers ran a series of tests, one of which was to take the rumination survey again. The urban walkers' scores were the same as before, while the nature walkers' rumination scores dropped from 35.4 (out of 60) to 33.1. What's more, researchers noted a decrease in neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex. It's an area of the brain, they write, that “has been associated with a self-focused behavioral withdrawal linked to rumination in both depressed and healthy individuals.”
"These findings support the view that natural environments may confer psychological benefits to humans.”
Read the full study.
Photo Credit: Xulio Villarino / Contributor