How City Living May Be Harming Your Mental Health, And What You Can Do About It

City life can take a serious toll on your mental health. Research has shown that urban dwellers are more likely to suffer from chronic stress and mental illness, particularly depression.

But according to new research, the antidote to those city blues could be as simple as a walk in the park.

A Stanford University study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that walking in nature reduces rumination — the type of obsessive negative thinking and self-criticism that plays a central role in depression and anxiety disorders.

“Cities are known for higher levels of mental illness such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia,” study co-author Greg Bratman, a doctoral student at the university’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, told The Huffington Post in an email. “While the underlying causes are doubtless complex and multifaceted, our findings and those of others highlight the benefits of nature experience.”

Take a hike. For the study, the researchers asked 38 mostly healthy men and women to answer questions about their tendency to ruminate, and had them undergo brain scans measuring activity of a particular brain region that tends to light up during this type of thinking. Then, each participant went on a 90-minute walk in either a green space or an urban area.

After walking in nature, participants reported experiencing less rumination, and brain scans revealed less activity in brain regions associated with repetitive negative thinking. Walking through an urban areas, however, had no effect on rumination.

The findings suggest that spending time in nature may improve improve mental well-being by warding off stress and negative thinking.

“Nature experience may help ‘buffer’ against the stressors of urban life, and might thereby contribute to a lowered risk factor for —> Read More