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Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (
May 2012

Nature Walks May Help People With Depression

Interacting with nature may ease symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD), according to a recent study.

Depression or depressive disorder is an illness that involves the body, mood and thoughts. Depression is considered a mood disorder. Imbalances in three neurotransmitters (brain chemicals), including serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine, are linked to depression. Depression affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself and the way one thinks about life situations. Unlike normal emotional experiences of sadness, loss or passing mood states, depressive disorders are persistent and can significantly interfere with an individual's thoughts, behavior, mood, activity and physical health.

A total of 20 people with MDD participated in a new study. Researchers collected information on their mood and memory span at the beginning of the trial. All subjects thought about a negative event in their past before taking a 50-minute walk in either a natural or urban setting, after which their mood and memory span were assessed again. The participants repeated this process a week later, but performed the walk in a different location.

All subjects had improvements in mood after walking. The results suggested that people who performed the nature walk had better memory span afterward, compared to those who walked through the urban setting.

The scientists concluded that interacting with nature may help improve mood and memory span in people who have MDD. However, more evidence is needed to better understand these findings.

Many integrative therapies have been studied for their potential effects on depression symptoms. St. John's wort has been extensively studied in Europe over the last two decades, with more recent research in the United States. Short-term studies (1-3 months) suggest that St. John's wort is more effective than placebo (sugar pill) and equally effective as tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) in the treatment of mild-to-moderate major depression. Comparisons to the more commonly prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants, such as fluoxetine (Prozac®) or sertraline (Zoloft®), are more limited. However, other data suggest that St. John's wort may be just as effective as SSRIs with fewer side effects. Safety concerns exist as with most conventional and complementary therapies.

For more information about depression, please visit Natural Standard's Medical Conditions Database.


  1. Berman MG, Kross E, Krpan KM, et al. Interacting with nature improves cognition and affect for individuals with depression. J Affect Disord. 2012 Mar 30. View Abstract
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.
The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard Inc. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited.