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The Positive Impact that Nature Has on the Brain is Astounding

There's something about being in nature, it has the magical ability to comfort you, especially in times when you need it most. It has the ability to put your thoughts back into perspective and bring about an overwhelming feeling of peace. Have you ever tried it? Go out on a walk, basking yourself amid trees, grass and all that nature has to offer, in your lowest of moods, or on your most stressful of days. Personally, I have found that stepping outside, breathing in the natural air on my off days, helps bring me back to my center and regain my focus. But it's not just my take on things. research too, consistently finds that nature has a profound impact on the brain.

So, what effects does nature have on the brain?

1. Being in nature makes you feel more alive

Feeling alive

Spending a day at the park or going on a hike can make you feel incredibly energized, not just mentally, but physically too, and this theory has been backed by a study conducted by the University of Rochester, which found that spending time outdoors not only makes you happier, it can also lead to a surge of energy. So next time you're feeling depleted, head to a park instead of reaching for a cup of coffee.


2. Nature has the ability to improve memory 

Walking in nature can improve your memory by up to 20%. A study conducted at the University of Michigan attempted to prove this by giving participants a 35-minute task which involved repeating loads of random numbers back to the experimenter but in reverse order. After this, they went out for a walk, one group around an arboretum, and the other down a busy street. They each repeated the memory test upon their return. Results showed that those who wandered among the trees improved by almost 20%, while those who walked down a busy street did not see any improvement.


3. It has the ability to reduce acute stress

Forest bathing

There is a practice in Japan called shinrin-yoku, which literally means forest bathing. This study proved that 798 people found shinrin-yoku to be an especially useful technique amongst those suffering from acute stress. The Japanese researchers also discovered that forest-bathing reduced hostility and depression and increased people's liveliness. In another study, the journal Landscape and Urban Planning found that adults who lived in areas with the most amount of green space experienced lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and reported feeling lower stress than city dwellers.


4. Nature has the ability to improve your sense of focus

Boosts focus

It has been found that cities can have a negative influence on the brain (according to a 2011 study). One of the reasons this may be so is due to the numerous amount of stimuli you encounter in hectic urban areas. Think about it - traffic, coffee shops, not forgetting to mention the throngs of people. Such distraction may impair the area of the brain that controls your directed attention and self-control. But, there's an antidote: nature! The great outdoors have been shown to help with attention. A small 1990s study found that women who lived in Chicago apartments that overlooked a grassy area saw better improvements on basic attention.  


5. It relieves depressive symptoms

Lifts depression

And all it takes is a quick walk in the park, which, as a 2014 study found, can do wonders for your mind. Walks through nature have a plethora of mental health benefits, including that of decreasing depression and alleviating moods... there is another perk to this factor too. Walking in nature gives you the additional benefit of exercise, this too alleviates mental health issues.


6. A walk in nature will prevent you from brooding

Brooding is a mental state that is familiar to most of us, whereby we cannot seem to stop thinking about all the ways in which things are wrong with ourselves and in our lives. In this study, 38 healthy adult city dwellers first completed a questionnaire to determine their normal level of brooding, then underwent a brain scan. Half the volunteers were asked to walk for 90 minutes around a park or a multi-lane highway. Upon their return, the volunteers repeated both the questionnaire and the brain scan, discovering that those who walked amid nature were no longer dwelling on the negative aspects of their life as much as they had before. 


7. A green space helps boost your creativity

Just looking at the color green may help spark inventiveness! But going into nature for an extended period can have a remarkable effect on creativity. In one particular study, participants took a four- or six-day trip into the wilderness. The study discovered that disconnecting from multimedia and technology increases performance on a creativity, problem-solving task by a full 50%. 


Click here for more articles on brain health

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