Your Brain on Green Spaces

Contributed by: Dennis Fortier, President, Medical Care Corporation

Lot's of things that seem obvious, turn out to be either counter-intuitive, or surprisingly complex.  For this reason, we often apply scientific methods to "obvious questions".  It is a means of verifying that our expectations are actually grounded in fact.

A recent study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, looked at how green spaces affect our state of mind.  The small study has gotten a fair amount of coverage in the press and, in some regards, investigates a fairly obvious question.

The research looked at brain activity, as measured with mobile electroencephalography, on 12 subjects as they walked through three distinct environments: a shopping district, a park, and a business district.  The findings showed that the subject's brains were least "engaged", or more suited to meditation,  in the park environment. Additionally, subjects showed evidence of being more engaged, excited, and frustrated, while passing through the shopping and business districts.

On one hand, it seems obvious that a more tranquil environment allows the brain to disengage and become more reflective.  On the other hand, it is always reassuring to demonstrate scientifically that an obvious conclusion is supported with empirical evidence.

My take-away? Maybe a small effort to give the brain a short rest, by dampening down all the stimulation of a busy urban life, is a useful and re-energizing break for the brain.  Take a walk in the woods if you can, and cut through the park whenever possible -- your brain might appreciate the break.