Cities Stress the Brain, Nature Restores the Mind


Busy City SubwayPhilosophers, poets, and writers have long known the dangers of city life. Now scientists know why. Neuroscience writer extraordinaire Jonah Lehrer writes for the Boston Globe that the simple act of being in a city “impairs our basic mental processes.”

Human minds struggle to keep up with the mental over-stimulation that’s ubiquitous in most cities. This can lead to mental and emotional fatigue in city dwellers.

The solution, according to Lehrer, is to spend more time in nature. Forests and sunsets don’t require the same neurological effort as the busy concrete jungle of cities. Spending time in nature, having an apartment that overlooks green spaces, or even looking at photographs of natural settings have all been found to have neurological benefits.

“Imagine a therapy that had no known side effects, was readily available, and could improve your cognitive functions at zero cost,” Marc G. Berman, John Jonides, and Stephen Kaplan wrote for Psychological Science. Spending time in nature has all these benefits, according to the study’s authors. The theory is called attention restoration theory, or ART, stating that mentally exhausted people can actually be rejuvenated by spending time in nature.

And if nature’s not readily available, you can try out the advice from Common Ground on beating “urban angst,” that Utne blogger Rachel Levitt pointed to.

(Thanks, MindHacks.)

9/29/2009 5:28:43 AM

Great post. I agree that living in the city is quite different, it's complicated and full of destruction. Going somewhere in nature will somehow lessen and refreshes you mind from. Pollution and crimes are just some of the dominant feature in the city. Speaking of crime have you heard the latest new about the census worker?He was Bill Sparkman, a 51 year old Boy Scout Troop Leader and father of one. He was found with the word Fed written across his shirt. The Census is taken every ten years, and we are coming up on a Census year. No motive is known, and the police are investigating into the murder. Hopefully, they will get these psychopathic thugs that had a census worker hanged – many would give payday loans to hang them right back. For more info visit:

1/14/2009 8:42:32 AM

I was raised up in "the country"...horrible little unstimulating small interior of British Columbia towns (one thousand or less) the lack of stimulation is enough to make a person dead by the time they are 16 years of age...well if Jonah Lehrer says it and if it appears in "Psychological Science" (what IS THAT?) it MUST BE TRUE. Nope, I find the rural life to be absolutely astonishingly boring and brain-deadening...I HAVE to go to the City (I LOVE CITIES!) on a regular basis simply for the life-giving diversity and STRESS that it offers (something to do with philanthropy in its most basic sense, as opposed to misanthropy)...rural, nature life is boring, brown and green, muddy, isolating UGGGGHHHH!!!! where are the libraries, the vietnamese noodle houses, the fabric districts, the other people, etc. I have lived in the city as long as i have lived in the countryside (nature) and i'm 61 years old...but then, what do i know, and who am i to question the pronouncements of renowned journalists and scientists...they must be right, they are SCIENTISTS, right????

mr andrew_2
1/13/2009 11:54:33 AM

The solution, according to Mr. Andrew, is to spend more time in Minneapolis.

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