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Walking in any environment is good for our physical and mental health, but strolling or striding in a natural setting â€“ woods, park, garden, tree-lined neighborhood â€“ is even better for de-stressing and provides other health benefits.
â€śWhen we get to nature, our health improves,â€ť says Dr. Aaron Michelfelder of Loyola University Chicago. â€śOur stress hormones rise all day long in our bloodstream and taking even a few moments while walking to reconnect with our inner thoughts and to check in with our body will lower those damaging stress hormones.â€ť
There are several reasons why walking in natural settings is relaxing and healthful. One of them has to do with the way we use our attention.
We have two basic types of attention. Voluntary attention is what people consciously focus on. Involuntary attention occurs when something grabs our attention. Directing our voluntary attention throughout the day to take care of lifeâ€™s business fatigues the mind, but when we walk in a natural setting our mind has an opportunity to wander. In this environment, our mind is involuntarily but pleasantly engaged and refreshed by its surroundings.
â€śIn a lot of natural areas, youâ€™re away from loud noises and distractions,â€ť said researcher Dr. Marc Berman of Rotman Research Institute, Toronto. â€śIt tends to be less crowded so you donâ€™t have to worry about bumping into people, and it also has interesting stimulation to look at, which captures your attention automatically.â€ť
For best walk-in-the-woods results, let all calls go to voicemail.
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