How Spending Time in Nature Changes Your Brain

According to a new study, your emotional and mental health can improve with more time spent in the great outdoors.

Gregory Bratman, a graduate student at Stanford University, conducted research on the psychological effects of living in cities. His previous studies found that participants who had taken a walk in a park were much happier afterward than those who strolled through a more urban setting.

Bratman's newest study was intended to examine the neurological causes behind the increase in positive moods when participants were exposed to trees and grass. This time around, researchers focused on how subjects' tendencies to "brood," or focus on negative thoughts, are affected by being outdoors.

To do this, they studied participants' brain activity before and after taking a walk. According to the New York Times, the researchers found that those who had taken a walk in a more serene, tree-lined path were happier than those who walked by a traffic-lined street. Participants who walked down the greener path also were not as focused on negative thoughts as they were before they had begun their walk.

In another new study, conducted by the University of Chicago, researchers found that the addition of trees to urban neighborhoods drastically improved the health of the area's residents. By adding about 10 trees per city block, residents felt an average of seven years younger. In other words, residents enjoyed the same mental and physical health benefits as earning a $10,000-per-year increase in their personal income.

If that isn't enough to convince you to spend a little more time outdoors, I'm not sure what will.

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How Spending Time in Nature Changes Your Brain