Speed Reads

health and wellness

Why nature makes you chill out, according to science

People in bad moods ought to take a hike. No, really, take a hike — getting out into nature makes you happier and worry less, according to a study by Gregory Bratman of the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources at Stanford University. Bratman's research shows that "morbidly ruminating" (or, in common and not-as-terrifying parlance, “brooding”) is much more likely when someone is walking through an urban or city environment. When Bratman’s subjects walked through wooded nature areas, however, blood flow to their subgenual prefrontal cortexes lessened — that is, their brains were literally quieter and more at peace.

These results “strongly suggest that getting out into natural environments” could be an easy and almost immediate way to improve moods for city dwellers, Mr. Bratman said.

But of course many questions remain, he said, including how much time in nature is sufficient or ideal for our mental health, as well as what aspects of the natural world are most soothing. Is it the greenery, quiet, sunniness, loamy smells, all of those, or something else that lifts our moods? Do we need to be walking or otherwise physically active outside to gain the fullest psychological benefits? Should we be alone or could companionship amplify mood enhancements? [The New York Times]

Whatever the case may be, this much is certain: If the Wednesday wearies have you down, take that detour through the park on your way home. Your morbid ruminations will thank you.