Are you feeling blue and searching for the quickest way to change your mood? Maybe it’s time to go on a walk. Although, going for any old walk might not be enough. In fact, where you walk is as important as walking itself. Most of us living Colorado’s Rocky Mountains may already have experienced this, despite not knowing that walking in nature may change the workings of our brains.
A Stanford University graduate student, Gregory Bratman, decided to study why walking in nature can improve your mood. Bratman who has been studying the psychological effects of urban living, conducted a study that measured changes to people’s moods after going for a walk. But more importantly, he also looked at where people walked.
He split the study’s volunteers into two groups. One group walked for 90 minutes through “a leafy, quiet, parklike” section of Stanford’s campus. The other group walked next to “a loud, hectic, multi-lane highway.”
The group walking on the highway didn’t experience a change in their moods. But the group that walked through the quiet, park-like section of the Stanford campus showed “slight but meaningful improvements in their mental health…they were not dwelling on the negative aspects of their lives as much as they had been before the walk.”
For the study, Bratman and the researchers measured blood flow in volunteers’ subgenual prefrontal cortex. The more blood flow, the more activity. For those that walked through nature, researchers were able to see less blood flow to volunteers’ subgenual prefrontal cortex. Their brains were quieter which is good news.
Bratman conceded that there’s still a lot of research left to do including how much time we should spend in nature and what aspects of the natural world contribute to mood enhancements. One of the best things about thing about living in Colorado is access to the abundance of open space to roam.
Being outside in nature improves your mood. Treat yourself to spending time outdoors, walking through the nearest park, and improving your mental health.
Simply open the door and GO!
For more information about the science and study, read the full article. (via The New York Times).
Dr. Sonja Stilp is a spine and sports medicine physician practicing in Boulder, CO. She provides personalized care for the athlete in all of us. Sonja enjoys walking, hiking and running in the Colorado Rockies.