According to the United Nations, 54% of the world’s population is concentrated now in urban areas, and by 2050, that percentage will grow to almost 70%. Urban living is correlated with increased levels of mental illness and stress. City dwellers have a 20% higher risk of anxiety disorders and a 40% higher risk of mood disorders compared to people who live in rural areas.
Based on research from Stanford University and recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (USA), we offer city dwellers today a simple way to help calm their life a bit (an alternative to meditation).
This is what the research—using the latest in brain scan technology— concluded will help you: take a walk in nature, or at least, in a park.
The study measured 38 healthy men and women by first testing their tendency to “ruminate”, which is a common thought process especially in those who are chronically anxious or depressed. Rumination is a type of self-critical negative thinking, or internal talk, and at times may become almost an obsession that helps destroy your mood.
The 38 participants underwent functional brain scanning at the beginning of the experiment, and they took a 90-minute walk in either a green nature area, or inside a city, on sidewalks near traffic. The participants who walked in nature reported less rumination after the nature walk, and their brain scans showed significantly decreased activity in their prefrontal cortex, areas that normally show greater activity under stress. The city walkers showed no improvement on the brain scans.
If you don’t have easy access to a park or natural setting, at least try to take walks in a city park; a place where you might see more trees than traffic, and hear more birds than car horns. And when you can totally get out of the city, at least occasionally, do that for your mental health.
“This study is exciting because it demonstrates the impact of a nature experience on an aspect of emotion regulation – something that may help explain how nature makes us feel better” according to the principal researcher Gregory Bratman.
It also should stimulate city dwellers, and those concerned with the costs associated with urban mental illness, to advocate for more green spaces inside of cities. If these areas are made safe and accessible, it might actually lower the rate of urban mental illness, and all the related extra costs we all pay related to that.
See also in ProcuraMed:
Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)