A recent study* by Stanford researchers published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (July 2015) found that walking in nature served as an anti-depressant. The study wanted to explore why it is that people who live in urban areas have a much higher risk of mental illness. This has been a consistent finding but the cause/effect relationship is unclear. For example, city dwellers have a 20% increased risk of anxiety and a 40% increased risk of mood disorders as compared to people who live in rural areas**.
The study assigned one group of people to walk in a grassland area with trees and another group to walk along a busy 4-lane urban road. They found little to no impact on physiological conditions but marked differences in the brain. Those who walked in nature had a lot less activity in the area of the brain that is active when people focus on negative emotions.
So the takeaway for people with bipolar disorder: Take a hike! Get your mind and body healthy by going outside and enjoying the positive benefits for your mind and your body.
*Bratman, GN, Hamilton, JP, Hahn, KS, Daily GC, & Gross, JJ. (2015). Nature experiences reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 112 (28), 8567-8572.
**Jordan, R. (2015). Stanford researchers find mental health prescription: Nature. Stanford News, June 30.
Photo credit: I took this picture on a recent trip to Glacier National Park with my daughter.