From an article
in the Guardian
Country walks can bring startling reductions in depression and raise self-esteem, according to research published today.
The mental health charity Mind said the findings suggest ecotherapy should be prescribed by doctors to help treat mental health problems
The charity's study, Ecotherapy: the Green Agenda for Mental Health, is the first to look at how "green" exercise affects those suffering from depression.
The study by the University of Essex compared the benefits of a 30-minute walk in a country park with a walk in an indoor shopping centre on a group of 20 members of local Mind associations.
After the country walk, 71% reported decreased levels of depression and said they felt less tense while 90% reported increased self-esteem.
This was in contrast to only 45% who experienced a decrease in depression after the shopping centre walk, after which 22% said they actually felt more depressed. Some 50% also felt more tense and 44% said their self-esteem had dropped after window-shopping at the centre.
I'm not sure a study by university researchers was necessary to reach this conclusion. Thoreau in his Journal
often said much the same thing, e.g. on June 17, 1857:
I go along the settled road, where the houses are interspersed with woods, in an unaccountably desponding mood, but when I come out upon a bare and solitary heath am at once exhilarated. This is a common experience in my travelling. I plod along, thinking what a miserable world this is and what miserable fellows we that inhabit it, wondering what it is tempts men to live in it: but anon I leave the towns behind and am lost in some boundless heath, and life gradually becomes more tolerable, if not even glorious.
October 31, 1857:
If you are afflicted with melancholy at this season, go to the swamp and see the brave spears of skunk-cabbage buds already advanced toward a new year. Their gravestones are not bespoken yet. Who shall be sexton to them? Is it the winter of their discontent? Do they seem to have lain down to die, despairing of skunk-cabbagedom? "Up and at 'em," "Give it to 'em," "Excelsior," "Put it through," — these are their mottoes. Mortal human creatures must take a little respite in this fall of the year; their spirits do flag a little. There is a little questioning of destiny, and thinking to go like cowards to where the "weary shall be at rest." But not so with the skunk-cabbage. Its withered leaves fall and are transfixed by a rising bud. Winter and death are ignored; the circle of life is complete. Are these false prophets? Is it a lie or a vain boast underneath the skunk-cabbage bud, pushing it upward and lifting the dead leaves with it? They rest with spears advanced; they rest to shoot!
I say it is good for me to be here, slumping in the mud, a trap covered with withered leaves. See those green cabbage buds lifting the dry leaves in that watery and muddy place. There is no can't nor cant to them. They see over the brow of winter's hill. They see another summer ahead.
November 9, 1857:
See the sun rise or set if possible each day. Let that be your pill.
January 6, 1858:
Very little evidence of God or man did I see just then, and life not as rich and inviting an enterprise as it should be, when my attention was caught by a snowflake on my coat-sleeve. It was one of those perfect, crystalline, star-shaped ones, six-rayed, like a flat wheel with six spokes, only the spokes were perfect little pine trees in shape, arranged around a central spangle. This little object, which, with many of its fellows, rested unmelting on my coat, so perfect and beautiful, reminded me that Nature had not lost her pristine vigor yet, and why should man lose heart?