What difference does where we live make regarding our mental health? Psychologists have long contended that people living in urban areas have higher levels of anxiety, depression, mood disorders, and schizophrenia than rural dwellers.

I live in a large city…St. Paul. During the last three weeks, I have trained at schools in rural areas of Minnesota, South Dakota, and Iowa. Last week I spent three days at a leadership conference at a resort in northern Minnesota. After Tuesday’s session, I went for a long walk along the lake shore and through the golf course. I walked on grass, not cement, and was surrounded by trees, not buildings. Upon returning to the resort for a social gathering and dinner with conference attendees, I felt mentally sharp and engaged.

Back in my room later that evening, I came upon a new study published in the journal  Molecular Psychiatry offering evidence that a simple walk through nature can lower stress-related activity in the brain. The study revealed that participants who walked for an hour in a forest showed decreased amygdala activity while those who walked for an hour in the city did not.

Sonja Sudimac, author of the study, says, “Going for a walk in nature is beneficial for our mental health and brain. Even though many studies have shown that nature is good for our well-being, we found for the first time a causal link between exposure to nature and a reduction of stress-related brain activity. It is interesting that this effect was found only after one-hour walk, so if one doesn’t have time to spend a whole day in nature, it looks that only one-hour is beneficial for our brain.” (If you want to read more about the study, go to “How nature nurtures: Amygdala activity decreases as the result of a one-hour walk in nature,” authored by Sonja Sudimac, Vera Sale, and Simone Kühn.)

Take an hour this week and give your brain the gift of nature.

From our Top 20 team…Willow, Kevin, and Tom…talkers and walkers.

Paul Bernabei, Director
Top 20 Training