Now We're Stressed Out
Shani Avrahami Saraf
Prince of Wales Secondary
Floor Location : M 092 H

The way I found my project was actually thanks to the family chiropractor – Dr. Michel Vipond – in his monthly Bits and Bytes newsletter (www.vipondchiropractic.ca) in October 2015. The newsletter mentioned a study done over the summer by Gregory Bratman, a Stanford P.H.D. student who was testing whether or not spending time in nature made subjects ruminate less.
Rumination is a process in which a reoccurring thought or concern occupies the mind in a repetitive manner and it often leads to stress. Asides from the obvious unpleasantness, stress is linked to higher levels of cortisol. Cortisol has been nicknamed “the stress hormone” because it is also responsible for your flight or fight response. Small amounts of cortisol can boost your energy levels, improve your memory function and increase pain tolerance. (Cortisol and Stress: How to Stay Healthy (stress.about.com)) My experiment was based on a study done by Gregory Bratman. He had a group of people walk along a highway and another group in a forest. He then gave them a brain scan and had them fill out a questionnaire. He found that being in the forest was much more relaxing and that the people were ruminating significantly less than when walking along the highway. (Cool Green Science – Smarter by Nature).
With all of this in mind, what are ways to reduce the rumination (and the associated stress) and keep it to a healthy minimum? This is what Gregory Bratman was asking. These days, when people do get out, even just to walk their dog, they are still constantly attached to their phones. The purpose of my experiment was to try to find out if being in nature with your cellphone would lower the positive effect that nature has on rumination levels. I think that this is an important follow-up on Bratman’s original question as, from a practical standpoint, people should be made aware that being in nature might not be enough to destress if they continue to actively use their phones. Also, it’s important to point out to the overall impact that phones have on our society in terms of stress levels and our ability to avoid them.