The current issue of Psychology Today mentions research by Stephen Kaplan at the University of Michigan. He and his colleagues study urban forests. They conclude that a walk in the park improves cognitive abilities more than a walk downtown.
It’s not surprising. Getting around downtown requires a lot of attention and concentration. Witness the experience of the once inveterate New Yorker; now a country-bumpkin, she realizes during a visit that considerable attention must be paid to avoid stepping in front of oncoming cabs and figuring out what that smell really is. It’s work. On the other hand, in country-bumpkinland, noticing deer, rabbits, ducks and leaves is interesting, yet not cognitively demanding. It’s relaxing and renewing.
We know that being in nature improves stress management and decreases negative emotions like anger and anxiety. Apparently, it also improves cognition.
So even though all the noise and the hurry seems to help, I’d skip both Downtown and Walking in Memphis. Instead, consider listening to the tunes on your iPod while having a stroll in a more natural environment. Can't get to the country? Central Park will do just fine.