Many people describe themselves as “overthinkers.” Most of us agree that taking time to think things through before we make a decision is a good idea, but when does this thinking become unhealthy and lead to problems like rumination and increased stress? Too much thinking can even cause us to become anxious or depressed.
So what can we do to avoid this negative habit of overthinking? In a 2015 study, researchers investigated whether simply being outside in nature could reduce rumination. Here’s what they learned:
Participants who went on a 90-min walk through a natural environment reported lower levels of rumination and showed reduced neural activity in an area of the brain linked to risk for mental illness compared with those who walked through an urban environment. These results suggest that accessible natural areas may be vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world. (Bratman et al., 2016)
So whether you are an “overthinker” or not, it’s a great idea to get outside this summer. June 20 th marked the official First Day of Summer, a three month period when it is easy to head outdoors. Take advantage of the time of year, the weather, and our beautiful New England surroundings. Go for a walk on the local rail trail, take a hike, or try kayaking on one of our many local lakes and rivers. Being out in nature can improve your outlook on life, relax your mind, and even decrease symptoms of depression. As John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club, said, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”