The simple act of walking in nature has so many physical and psychological benefits that it’s a shame to pass it up.
A 2015 study discovered that people who took a 90-minute walk in nature had lower activity in the part of the brain connected to worrying than those who walked the same amount of time in an urban environment.
Researchers at Brighton and Sussex medical school discovered that listening to nature sounds can instantly improve the listener’s mental health state.
The study compared the mental health effects of listening to natural sounds as opposed to artificial sounds.
Natural sounds like ocean waves, bird songs, rain, wind, thunder, and so on caused the listener to have an outward-directed focus of attention and 'rest-digest' nervous system activity, which shows the body is relaxed. They also performed better in an attention task than those who listened to artificial sounds.
Note that the more stressed the participants were, the more they benefitted from listening to nature.
A 2014 study showed that group walks were as beneficial for the participants’ mental health as solo walks.
When you are exploring the outdoors with a group of like-minded people, you’re more likely to talk about how the walk made you feel and share some of those positive emotions.
That said, don't now go pressure friends into a walk outside with the idea they'll feel better. A study at the University of Exeter found that you benefit more from visiting nature when it's your choice. When participants were pressured to visit nature they still felt anxious and unmotivated afterwards.
If you are a creative person, and feel good when you feel creative, then walking in nature is a win win as it's been found to boost creativity. A study at Stanford University found that walking boosts your creativity both during your walk and for a short while afterwards.
All in all, nature can boost your mental health and lower stress levels in the body, especially if this activity is done consistently and in groups.
So instead of curling up alone on a sofa and moaning about your unproductive week, put on your sneakers and head on to the nearest park for a walk.
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