Stress Response – what was a life-saver initially, making us run from predators and enabling us to take down prey. Today we can’t seem to turn off the same life-saving physical reaction to cope with intense, ongoing stress.
Robert Sapolsky, Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Stanford University, reveals just how dangerous prolonged exposure to stress can be.
The theory that nature can recharge minds depleted by harsh urban environments is not new, but only recently has the theory been scientifically tested. Thanks to portable EEG’ measuring brain activity unobtrusively, researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and the University of Edinburgh were able to measure the brain patterns of 12 volunteers as they walked through three different sections of Edinburgh over the course of an hour and a half.
The findings confirmed previous ideas on how the surrounding physical environment affects the brain’s attentiveness.
“When the volunteers made their way through the urbanized, busy areas…their brain wave patterns consistently showed that they were more aroused, attentive and frustrated than when they walked through the parkland, where brain-wave readings became more meditative. While traveling through the park, the walkers were mentally quieter.”
Natural environments still engage the brain, say researchers, holding our attention while simultaneously allowing for reflection.
The term “Nature Deficit Disorder ( / Syndrome)” has rung a bell for me ever since I first heard it. Whilst it is most often used by parents to describe their fears for the next generation I see this also as being very applicable to adults in our city based working lives seemingly chained to office desks.
Copyright 2008 Gary Varvel – http://garyvarvel.com/
There has been plenty of anecdotal as well as scientific evidence (see some resource links below) that an ongoing deficit of exposure to nature can have detrimental effects also on adults physical and mental health.