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Feeling Stressed? Get Outside

Whether you are in Boston, DC, Philadelphia, LA, or another big city, you may be falling victim to the disadvantages of city-living. Our bodies were designed to run, jump and play, and while we know how important exercise is for our bodies and souls, we often overlook the importance of actually spending time outside (and, no, walking to the bodega on the corner for your afternoon coffee doesn’t count).

City dwellers have a higher risk for anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses than people living outside urban centers. This is real. Various studies have found that urban dwellers with little access to green spaces have a higher incidence of psychological problems, including the above. The good news is, stress hormones decrease immediately after visiting natural environments, so all you have to do is get your bum outside. Stick your toes in the grass for some bonus points. 

People who walk through a green area are more attentive and happier afterwards than those who walk near heavy traffic (what's up New Yorkers!). Getting "out into natural environments” can provide you with a simple, immediate fix. Walking in nature also has positive effects on neural activity, specifically in the subgenual prefrontal cortex. The subgenual prefrontal cortex is a region of the brain that is active during repetitive negative thought. This activity decreases when walking in nature versus walking in urban environment - AKA the more you spend time outside, the more self-love you get to bathe in.

Nature can also have a large link to emotion regulation, which is exactly why we feel better and more at ease when we go hiking on the weekends, or picnic in the park. Time in nature also has a positive effect on aspects of cognitive function like memory due to the oxygen quality. The greener the healthier, the smarter, the better.

Just because you live in a city doesn't mean you're destined for a life of anxiety and anger. Take a weekend trip. Meditate in the park. Miss your class and exercise outside once a week. Take your work phone call outside to a green space. Eat your lunch outside.

Do yourself a favor and get out into nature. Whether it is today, or this weekend - your brain will thank you.

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