Feeling anxious or depressed? Take a quick walk in nature

We’ve all experienced the calming and mood-enhancing effects of walking in the countryside, in the mountains, around a lake, or on the coast.

There’s just something about nature that makes us feel…right.

And even a single short walk in a natural environment – such as a woodland – reduces anxiety and improves mood.

So says a study conducted in Japan in 2018. 585 participants were randomly assigned to a 15-minute walk through city streets or through a forest.

In both groups, before and after the walk, the researchers measured anxiety and mood using a standard questionnaire. After the walk, the forest group had reduced anxiety, depression, anger, fatigue, and confusion – and increased vigour – compared to the city group.

Imagine doing that every day. Imagine how much better you’d feel. Imagine how life (and work) would seem just a little…easier.

Don’t have easy access to a woodland? Even inner-city green spaces have been shown to have similar positive effects on emotional health.

Scientists are trying to find out which specific factors in natural environments are causing these effects. Is it sunlight? Plants? Wildlife? Fresh air? Nobody knows yet.

Although I’m not sure it matters. The evolutionary explanation seems the most compelling to me – we’ve evolved to be surrounded by nature. End of story.

The more we separate ourselves from nature, the more we just don’t feel right. The solution is to get back into nature. Even for a brief time. Every day.

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