By Cynthia Shahan
Half of the population lives in urban areas, and this is expected to keep increasing. A new report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences notes that, in 2050, up to 70% of the population may be living the city life. Improved parks with pedestrian paths will offer an opportunity for valuable nature walking in such cities.
The study, “Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation,” found that “those on a 90-min walk in a natural environment reported lower levels of rumination.” Going on: “They also had reduced neural activity in an area of the brain linked to risk for mental illness when compared with those who walked through an urban environment.”
The team investigated how a long walk in nature, compared to urban settings, affects mental health. In particular, the study examines rumination, or repetitious pondering and thoughts, during a walk in city or country. Such thoughts, like being on a treadmill that goes round and round, lead to a risk of psychological distress.
Ever notice how a child given any opportunity loves to play in the soil, dig in the dirt, climb a tree, or roll in the grass. There is something about being immersed in nature that renews life. All those playful romps into nature improve the immune function as well.
Thus, what one desires as a child is a key to invigorating mental stasis, particularly depression, as well as vitalizing immune health. Expanding natural areas in urban areas will offer increased wellness and, in particular, mental health in the urbanizing world. The study “reveals a pathway by which nature experience may improve mental well-being.” So it is a matter of bringing more natural areas to the city.