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Study suggests that walking in nature can reduce 'negative feelings' and improve mental health

Researchers conducted an experient with 37 people with Major Depressive Disorder.

Study suggests that walking in nature can reduce 'negative feelings' and improve mental health
Image Source: Getty Images/Jordan Siemens

Being amidst nature ensures good health and high spirits. A new study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders discovered that, when compared to urban environments, a walk in nature reduced negative emotional impact in people suffering from Major Depressive Disorder, according to My Modern Met. The study mentions, "While walking in nature has been shown to improve effect in adults from the community to a greater extent than walking in urban settings, it is unknown whether such benefits apply to individuals suffering from depression."

Image Source: Getty Images/Noel Hendrickson
Image Source: Getty Images/Noel Hendrickson


The study included 37 individuals, aged 18 to 65, with a higher female to male ratio, who were patients at a psychiatric outpatient clinic for people with difficult-to-manage MDD (major depressive disorder). They were given either an urban walk on a busy street or a stroll in a park away from the city sounds. Both walks were scheduled to take place on a sunny morning. Participants were urged to refrain from speaking to one another for 60 minutes.

 Most studies on the impacts of nature on people's mental health do not include people who have a diagnosis right after spending time outside. So the study team was determined to see if a single 60-minute stroll effected the walkers' moods. The researchers gathered data six times before and after the walk: an hour before, during, and immediately after, as well as three, 24, and 48 hours afterward. While there were no differences in good effects, there was a decrease in negative affect that lasted two days after the walk. The urban route participants saw a drop in negative affect as well but not as much as the nature group.


The study's author Marie-Claude Geoffroy, the Canada Research Chair in Youth Suicide Prevention and an assistant professor at McGill University, told PsyPost, "There is a growing recognition that walking in nature could make us happier. Our research team, based at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute in Montreal, investigated whether walking in nature could help people suffering from major depression to reduce negative feelings." 

"Although walking in all environments had a beneficial effect on mood, the results showed that negative feelings such as anger, sadness and stress – generally characteristic of major depression – were more reduced after a nature walk than after a walk in an urban environment," she added.

It was a single blind study which meant that it had several limitations. The pre-walk evaluation was conducted in an office or lab environment rather than at home. Furthermore, nature walkers had to walk to get to the natural environment, which was not the case for the urban walkers. 

The study inferred that "walking in nature might be a useful complementary strategy to improve negative affect in the short term for individuals diagnosed with MDD." This intriguing research proves the fact that nature and wilderness can have significantly improve our mental health. Just taking a walk to clear the mind, preferably amidst greenery, can reduce stress and anxiety. 

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