Many of us have experienced the healing and relaxing effect of being in nature. Fresh air, trees, water, mountains can do so much to bring our overstimulated brains and emotions back to center.
This is not a new phenomenon, but we are seeing more research confirm what we have already experienced. National Geographic featured several research project outcomes, confirming this healing property of being in nature. Most notable in this article, researchers at University of Exeter Medical School found that when people simply lived closer to green spaces, they experienced less mental distress. Also noted in this article, David Strayer, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Utah, finds that the brain can restore optimal cognitive functioning and attention when we replace technology with nature for short periods of time.
Strayer also has reported findings that show spending time in nature increases creativity and flexibility in the brain. Nature appears to calm the prefrontal cortex- the part of the brain that is best known for multi tasking and higher order thinking (worrying?). When this happens we increase our ability to access memories, solve problems, and process emotions. In addition, creativity is increased and we can find new, positive ways of viewing the world.
Nature can even be used to treat and prevent worsening of depression. Researchers at Stanford University, found even short walks in nature can reduce rumination, a strong contributing factor to depression. When interviewing the research participants, Walking in nature was found to increase feelings of a “sense of belonging” and a “sense of being away,” that helped alleviate rumination and negative thoughts.
So, if you needed more reason to get outside and enjoy nature, you have it here. Try to make some time to get out for a walk, sit by a stream or adventure into the mountains- your brain will thank you for it!