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This study investigated the impact of nature experience on affect and cognition. We randomly assigned sixty participants to a 50-min walk in either a natural or an urban environment in and around Stanford, California. Before and after their walk, participants completed a series of psychological assessments of affective and cognitive functioning. Compared to the urban walk, the nature walk resulted in affective benefits (decreased anxiety, rumination, and negative affect, and preservation of positive affect) as well as cognitive benefits (increased working memory performance). This study extends previous research by demonstrating additional benefits of nature experience on affect and cognition through assessments of anxiety, rumination, and a complex measure of working memory (operation span task). These findings further our understanding of the influence of relatively brief nature experiences on affect and cognition, and help to lay the foundation for future research on the mechanisms underlying these effects.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is thought to reduce emotional reactivity and enhance emotion regulation in patients with social anxiety disorder (SAD). The goal of this study was to examine the neural correlates of deploying attention to regulate responses to negative self-beliefs using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Participants were 56 patients with generalized SAD in a randomized controlled trial who were assigned to MBSR or a comparison aerobic exercise (AE) stress reduction program. Compared to AE, MBSR yielded greater (i) reductions in negative emotion when implementing regulation and (ii) increases in attention-related parietal cortical regions. Meditation practice was associated with decreases in negative emotion and social anxiety symptom severity, and increases in attention-related parietal cortex neural responses when implementing attention regulation of negative self-beliefs. Changes in attention regulation during MBSR may be an important psychological factor that helps to explain how mindfulness meditation training benefits patients with anxiety disorders.
Urbanization has many benefits, but it also is associated with increased levels of mental illness, including depression. It has been suggested that decreased nature experience may help to explain the link between urbanization and mental illness. This suggestion is supported by a growing body of correlational and experimental evidence, which raises a further question: what mechanism(s) link decreased nature experience to the development of mental illness? One such mechanism might be the impact of nature exposure on rumination, a maladaptive pattern of self-referential thought that is associated with heightened risk for depression and other mental illnesses. We show in healthy participants that a brief nature experience, a 90-min walk in a natural setting, decreases both self-reported rumination and neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex (sgPFC), whereas a 90-min walk in an urban setting has no such effects on self-reported rumination or neural activity. In other studies, the sgPFC has been associated with a self-focused behavioral withdrawal linked to rumination in both depressed and healthy individuals. This study reveals a pathway by which nature experience may improve mental well-being and suggests that accessible natural areas within urban contexts may be a critical resource for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world.
Objective: We evaluated the comparative effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) versus an active control condition (ACC) for depression relapse prevention, depressive symptom reduction, and improvement in life satisfaction. Method: Ninety-two participants in remission from major depressive disorder with residual depressive symptoms were randomized to either an 8-week MBCT or a validated ACC that is structurally equivalent to MBCT and controls for nonspecific effects (e.g., interaction with a facilitator, perceived social support, treatment outcome expectations). Both interventions were delivered according to their published manuals. Results: Intention-to-treat analyses indicated no differences between MBCT and ACC in depression relapse rates or time to relapse over a 60-week follow-up. Both groups experienced significant and equal reductions in depressive symptoms and improvements in life satisfaction. A significant quadratic interaction (Group × Time) indicated that the pattern of depressive symptom reduction differed between groups. The ACC experienced immediate symptom reduction postintervention and then a gradual increase over the 60-week follow-up. The MBCT group experienced a gradual linear symptom reduction. The pattern for life satisfaction was identical but only marginally significant. Conclusions: MBCT did not differ from an ACC on rates of depression relapse, symptom reduction, or life satisfaction, suggesting that MBCT is no more effective for preventing depression relapse and reducing depressive symptoms than the active components of the ACC. Differences in trajectory of depressive symptom improvement suggest that the intervention-specific skills acquired may be associated with differential rates of therapeutic benefit. This study demonstrates the importance of comparing psychotherapeutic interventions to active control conditions.
We conducted a 26-month follow-up of a previously reported 12-month study that compared mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) to a rigorous active control condition (ACC) for depressive relapse/recurrence prevention and improvements in depressive symptoms and life satisfaction. Participants in remission from major depression were randomized to an 8-week MBCT group (n = 46) or the ACC (n = 46). Outcomes were assessed at baseline; postintervention; and 6, 12, and 26 months. Intention-to-treat analyses indicated no differences between groups for any outcome over the 26-month follow-up. Time to relapse results (MBCT vs. ACC) indicated a hazard ratio = .82, 95% CI [.34, 1.99]. Relapse rates were 47.8% for MBCT and 50.0% for ACC. Piecewise analyses indicated that steeper declines in depressive symptoms in the MBCT vs. the ACC group from postintervention to 12 months were not maintained after 12 months. Both groups experienced a marginally significant rebound of depressive symptoms after 12 months but were still improved at 26 months compared to baseline (b = –4.12, p <= .008). Results for life satisfaction were similar. In sum, over a 26-month follow-up, MBCT was no more effective for preventing depression relapse/recurrence, reducing depressive symptoms, or improving life satisfaction than a rigorous ACC. Based on epidemiological data and evidence from prior depression prevention trials, we discuss the possibility that both MBCT and ACC confer equal therapeutic benefit. Future studies that include treatment as usual (TAU) control conditions are needed to confirm this possibility and to rule out the potential role of time-related effects. Overall findings underscore the importance of comparing MBCT to TAU as well as to ACCs.
* Nature experience produced clear benefits for affect (e.g., decrease in anxiety and rumination). * Nature experience produced some benefits for cognition (complex working memory span task). * Supports the idea that exposure to natural greenspace can improve affect and cognition.; This study investigated the impact of nature experience on affect and cognition. We randomly assigned sixty participants to a 50-min walk in either a natural or an urban environment in and around Stanford, California. Before and after their walk, participants completed a series of psychological assessments of affective and cognitive functioning. Compared to the urban walk, the nature walk resulted in affective benefits (decreased anxiety, rumination, and negative affect, and preservation of positive affect) as well as cognitive benefits (increased working memory performance). This study extends previous research by demonstrating additional benefits of nature experience on affect and cognition through assessments of anxiety, rumination, and a complex measure of working memory (operation span task). These findings further our understanding of the influence of relatively brief nature experiences on affect and cognition, and help to lay the foundation for future research on the mechanisms underlying these effects.