Studies have long linked going for a stroll or hike to improved moods. They've also found that people living in urban areas, with little access to greenery, are at a higher risk for depression, anxiety, and mental illness. We know that getting back to nature makes us feel better, but a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that it can also actually change the way city dwellers brains' work.
Stanford researchers wanted to know how walking in a lush park- versus walking near a busy highway affects the part of the brain associated with "brooding." The "highway walkers" came back as miserable as ever, but the "park walkers" had stopped obsessing about their problems and their brains had quieted down.
The researchers are excited because it shows an easy and almost immediate way to help people in the city who probably don't realize how much their environment is bumming them out.
Next the researchers want to find the "formula" for the most psychological benefits. How long should you walk? Are grass and trees necessary? Does it count if you play on your phone the whole time? For now, if you're feeling down and out, hit the trails in the park. There's scientific proof it'll help.