Thursday, August 13, 2015

Nature Walks Help Your Brain

Nature Walks Help Your Brain
So many people find that the Sunrider foods make their brain clearer or in the words of many, "the fog just lifted".  Well, here is another tip.  Sort of well known already within us but it is nice to see it studied.
As published in the Washington Post, a bevy of recent studies have added to a growing literature on the mental and physical benefits of spending time outdoors.  That includes recent research showing that short micro-breaks spent looking at a nature scene have a rejuvenating effect on the brain -- boosting levels of attention -- and also that kids who attend schools featuring more greenery fare better on cognitive tests.
Another recent study, a cognitive neuroscience study, meaning not only that benefits from a nature experience were captured in an experiment, but also that their apparent neural signature was observed through brain scans.
The paper, by Stanford's Gregory Bratman and several colleagues from the Untied States and Sweden, was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  In it, 38 individuals who lived in urban areas, and who had "no history of mental disorder," were divided into two groups -- and asked to take a walk. 
Half waked for 90 minutes through a natural area near the Stanford campus.  The other half walked along a very busy road in downtown Palo Alto, California (along El Camino real, for those who know the area).  Before and also after the walk, the participants answered a questionnaire designed to measure their tendency toward "rumination," a pattern of often negative, inward-directed thinking and questioning that has bee tied to an increased risk of depression, and that is assessed with questionnaire items like "My attention is often focused on aspects of myself I wish I'd stop thinking about," and "I spend a great deal of time thinking back over my embarrassing or disappointing moments."  Finally, both before and after the walk, the participants had their brains scanned.
The result was that individuals who took the 90-minute nature walk showed a decrease in rumination -- they actually answered the questionnaire differently, just a short period of time later.  And their brain activity also showed a change consistent with this result.  In particularly, the scans showed decreased activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, the region of interest.
So a word of advice?  Eat healthy and take a hike!