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Study Shows a Walk in the Park Fixes a Fuzzy Brain

Study Shows a Walk in the Park Fixes a Fuzzy Brain

Written by Jaymi Heimbuch

Urban living gives you brain fatigue. It flat out makes your brain tired of constantly being alert and aware. And a walk in the park can go a long way to clear up the resulting fuzziness.

I like how Fast Company explains it: “Pedestrians get drained because they have to remain vigilant of all the madness that’s around them, being forced to use directed mental attention–a limited resource–to get from one block to another without being run over by something with two legs or four wheels. In contrast, the environs of a park, unless there’s a stroller festival afoot, can put you into a state of soft fascination,the aaaaah-inducing feeling of taking in the space around you. By being in a green space, that ever-so-scarce resource of directed attention is able to renew itself.”

A new study from Scotland helps to prove this. New York Times writes that researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and the University of Edinburgh used portable EEGs to monitor the brain activity of 12 healthy young adults. Different participants walked through different areas of Edinburgh — one was an historic shopping district, one was a park-like setting, and one was a busy commercial district.

You can guess which walkers were the least stressed and frustrated — those in the park. While this is a small study, it still helps to underscore what we already intuitively know. We relax in quiet, natural settings much more than we do (or ever could) in urban settings.

Jenny Roe, a lecturer at Heriot-Watt’s School of the Built Environment, who oversaw the study, told the New York Times that while natural setting still engage our brain, the engagement is effortless: “It’s called involuntary attention in psychology. It holds our attention while at the same time allowing scope for reflection.”

From the New York Times:

The study suggests that, right about now, you should consider “taking a break from work,” Dr. Roe said, and “going for a walk in a green space or just sitting, or even viewing green spaces from your office window.” This is not unproductive lollygagging, Dr. Roe helpfully assured us. “It is likely to have a restorative effect and help with attention fatigue and stress recovery.”

It’s certainly worth taking a walk in a quiet park yourself to test out this theory and see if you’re calmer and more clear-headed when you return home.

This post was originally published by TreeHugger.


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Photo: dalem/flickr

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3:36AM PDT on May 10, 2013

Anne M, I always walk in the park by myself. The only thing that I have to worry about are the new holes that the resident groundhogs have added to the ground. Or perhaps a tree being felled by the beavers yet again. I guess it often depends on where you live quite often, especially in some of the bigger cities. Not that even a small hamlet can't have a zombie or sociopath in its midst, but
I spend hours walking the park all alone with only the loons crying on the river or other wildlife for company.

3:26AM PDT on May 10, 2013

It works for me. I'm a Tree Lover.

6:01PM PDT on May 5, 2013

Interesting Thanks.
This is probably why many big internet companies like Google and Facebook have campuses to allow their employees creativity to flow.

8:22AM PDT on Apr 11, 2013

Who would have ever guessed that when you're in a calm relaxed environment it makes you calm and relaxed... and when you're in a busy congested environment you are less relaxed... What a scientific breakthrough!

5:53PM PDT on Apr 10, 2013

interesting I know a walk in nature always makes me feel better.

1:14PM PDT on Apr 10, 2013


10:59AM PDT on Apr 9, 2013

No surprised

9:31PM PDT on Apr 7, 2013

Miranda: You are right but it is good to have research papers addressing this. Coping with mental stress is something most people tend to feel its their sole responsibility and your access to these spaces not only count BUT goes to show that physical sorroundings are key elements. It is not just a matter of free will and individual effort!

11:37AM PDT on Apr 7, 2013

This strikes me as another unnecessary study to tell us something anyone with an ounce of common sense already knows or could easily figure out for themselves.

1:14AM PDT on Apr 7, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

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