Living in the country has always seemed idyllic to city folk – you see the smiling faces, community atmosphere and breathe in the fresh air. And now, it’s been proven that living in the country really is great for your overall health.
A new study by Stanford University published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that walking in nature can help to stop negative thought processes that can lead to depression and anxiety.
The authors found that city living might be making you sick.
“Cities are known for higher levels of mental illness such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia,” the study’s co-author Greg Bratman told The Huffington Post. “While the underlying causes are doubtless complex and multifaceted, our findings and those of others highlight the benefits of nature experience”.
It’s that rush of the city that can really inhibit our ability to truly absorb everything around us. You may have heard that days go by more slowly in the country, and it’s true.
There aren’t as many distractions in the country, and a lack of services and home comforts can mean you really have time to think and relax, even if it’s just for a weekend.
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 the onset of depression,” Bratman said.
“City planners are starting to take account of mental health, in addition to all the other values of nature.
“It’s important to incorporate these ‘psychological ecosystem services’ into urban design, to help bring nature to the city, and to improve easy access to these landscapes and nature experience”, he said.
Did you know that more than 50 per cent of the world lives in urban areas, with that number growing to 70 per cent by 2050?
“We’re in a unique moment in human history,” Bratman said. “Never before have so many people lived in cities, and never before have people been so disconnected from the natural world”.
Tell us, do you like to escape to the country? Where would you live if you could?