Scientific proof that your brain loves a walk in the park
The Atlantic Cities recently reported on a fascinating psychology study being conducted at the University of Michigan, which proves just how much the brain can benefit from even brief interactions with nature, especially in contrast to an urban context. The team, led by the cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Marc Berman, asked Ann Arbor residents to take a one hour walk through either a densely populated neighborhood or Michigan’s Arboretum (see above for a map of the two routes). The results were astonishing, in many cases the participants’ mood and memory were dramatically improved after a stroll through the open green space.
Berman and his colleagues attribute this effect to the “attention restoration theory,” meaning that in a naturally calm setting such as a park, the brain processes less overwhelming stimulae and is therefore given a chance to effectively reboot from the stresses of city living. The study also produced similar mood and attention elevating results when it was later conducted with individuals diagnosed with major depression. These findings make the case for the development of urban parks even stronger, as this data gives scientific proof that parks are a necessity to the physical, and now, mental health of city residents.
If you are interested in learning more about Dr. Berman’s research, be sure to check out his column for the Huffington Post.