Calm a Distressed Mind by Changing Your Environment

Calm a Distressed Mind by Changing Your Environment

via the Greater Good by Kira Newman

One of the biggest contributors to our happiness is something we barely pay attention to: the voice inside our own heads.

As psychologist Ethan Kross describes in his new book Chatter, that voice is constantly analyzing the situations we’re in, reflecting on the past and future, and telling us who we are. While sometimes friendly and optimistic—it’s OK, everything’s going to work out!—it can also be critical and downbeat. Our inner voice can berate us for mistakes or decide our life is ruined. It can ruminate on negative emotions and experiences, dredging them up without any kind of constructive resolution.

According to Kross, there are three main ways we can turn down the chatter in our heads: shifting our perspective so we’re not so immersed in our problems, talking with others to get support, and changing the environment around us.

The first two approaches work in the moment of distress: Kross offers tips on how to step back and gain some distance, and then share our problems with others. But changing our environment is something we can do proactively, to make us less likely to ruminate in the first place.

“We’re embedded in our physical spaces, and different features of those spaces activate psychological forces inside us, which affect how we think and feel,” writes Kross. “If we make smart choices about how we relate to our surroundings, they can help us control our inner voice.”

Here are three suggestions from Kross’s book to optimize your environment for a calmer mind.

Surround yourself with nature

Plenty of research suggests that nature makes us feel good and improves our health, too, whether we’re taking a nature walk, living in areas with more green space, or just looking at trees.

Nature also seems to help buffer against the stress we experience in life. For example, one study in the U.K. found that being exposed to green spaces protected people from the harmful effects of poverty on their health. In another study, poor residents in urban public housing felt that the obstacles in their life were less severe and more solvable when their apartment looked out onto greenery, rather than a cityscape.

Why is nature so soothing? A 2015 study provides a clue. When participants spent 90 minutes walking through grasslands, they reported ruminating less than those who walked through busy city streets. Not only that, but their brain scans showed less activity in networks that support rumination. Being around nature may actually influence our habitual thought patterns.

Even if you don’t have many trees on your street, this research is still relevant. In fact, other studies suggest that you can get some of the attention-improving and stress-reducing benefits of nature just by looking at nature photos or listening to birds and rain—and plants help, too…

… keep reading the full & original article HERE