Reposted from 2015/07/22
If you are prone to excess brooding, getting out of your office and into a local park might be just the thing for you. In fact many lawyers have told me that they experience direct benefits from getting out into nature in terms of energy levels, mood, and positive outlook.
The New York Times blogger Gretchen Reynolds reported on the research of Gregory Bratman, a graduate student at the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources at Stanford University, and his team of collaborators. Their study examined the impact of walking in nature on a person’s tendency to ruminate. Here’s what they discovered as reported in their paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:
Participants who went on a 90-min walk through a natural environment reported lower levels of rumination and showed reduced neural activity in an area of the brain linked to risk for mental illness compared with those who walked through an urban environment.
Study participants were asked to go for a 90 minute walk along either a busy highway or a tree-lined path. Those who walked along the path experienced a decrease in blood flow to the brooding area of the brain, the subgenual prefrontal cortex, and reported a corresponding reduction in their negative ruminations.
City dwellers are more prone to mental health and depression. Bratman’s research points to the importance of park areas to the quality of life in the big city.
If you are a lawyer working in the city, regularly scheduling some time outdoors in a local park or other natural setting is a simple way of helping to reduce mental stress. While the study focused on the impact of a 90 minute walk, I have a hunch based on my personal experience that even 15 quiet minutes in nature can have a significant positive impact.
This summer while the weather is good is a perfect time to try out an experiment: what is your own – before and after effect – of taking a break in nature during your workday?