Taking the scenic route to work is better for our mental health, study finds

Mental health and physical inactivity are two of the main public health problems associated with life in urban environments.

When you are commuting to work, you may want to take the long winding road through the trees or that bridge over the ocean, even if these scenic routes are not always the most convenient routes. One new study in Environment International found that people who commute through natural greenery to and from work scored 2.74 points higher, on average, on their mental health scores than people who did not commute through scenic landscapes.

This is why that drive through the trees puts you in a good mood

In the survey of 3,599 workers from four European countries, participants who commuted through natural environments on a daily basis reported stronger mental health than those who did not, suggesting that just the sight of natural greenery has a powerful effect on our mood.

This is good news for those of us who do not have a lush forest in our backyards. If we can make a concerted effort to find the green in our neighborhood, our proximity to this natural environment can boost our overall mood and offset the daily struggles of our work days.

The researchers suggested more investment in urban design around greenery so that more people have access to this natural mood-booster. “Cities should encourage active [natural environment] commuting by providing natural commuting routes suitable for active commuting,” the researchers conclude.

“Mental health and physical inactivity are two of the main public health problems associated with life in urban environments. Urban design could be a powerful tool to confront these challenges and create healthier cities,” Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, one of the authors of the study, said

Monica Torres|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at mtorres@theladders.com.