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nature and stress

The Stress-Melting Power of Nature

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March 23, 2021 | Published by


One of the greatest stress relievers can be found right outside your door. That’s right – Mother Nature has the power to undo stress, anxiety and depression caused by an unpleasant environment. We’re not talking about a 10-mile hike or trek into the Yukon either; mere exposure to a natural setting can help reduce the effects of stress.

A recent study found that spending as little as 20 minutes in a natural setting can naturally lower your stress hormone levels, including cortisol. MaryCarol Hunter, the lead author of the study and Associate Professor at the University of Michigan, had this to say about the research: “Our study shows that for the greatest payoff, in terms of efficiently lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol, you should spend 20 to 30 minutes sitting or walking in a place that provides you with a sense of nature.”1

So, you don’t have to be deep into a national forest to get this benefit. Any area where you can get a sense of nature can work. As Hunter explains, “Participants were free to choose the time of day, duration, and the place of their nature experience, which was defined as anywhere outside that in the opinion of the participant, made them feel like they’ve interacted with nature.” 1

In addition to reducing stress, time spent in nature has also been linked to other benefits including: improved attention span; better mood; reduced risk of psychiatric disorders; and increases in empathy and cooperation.2

Nature and Mood

In addition to reducing stress, nature can switch up a down mood as well. In one study, 95% of people interviewed said their mood was improved after being in nature, going from stressed and anxious to more calm and balanced. Also, since humans inherently find nature intriguing, we tend to focus on what we experience in the natural world, which can help calm overactive minds and refresh us for new tasks.3

Nature and Connection

Numerous field studies show that time spent in nature helps to connect us to each other and world at large. A study done by the University of Illinois examined those who lived in public housing and had trees and green space around their building. These people reported having stronger feelings of unity with neighbors, knowing more of their neighbors, and stronger feelings of belonging than tenants in buildings without green space. 3

Nature and Stressed-Out Minds

Taking time off from work should be viewed as a necessity, not a luxury. A time-out from work can help restore one’s creativity, productivity, and focus. Overworking or not taking time off from work can lead to further stress, burnout, and chronic exhaustion. 4

Nature and Perspective

Our daily routines, combined with prolonged stress, can cause anxiety and leave us feeling overwhelmed. Getting away from our routine and into nature for a bit can help us regain sight of the bigger picture. The great outdoors can help us see the world as an interconnected community that’s more than our cubicle or office. 4

Nature and Fulfillment

One way to better manage the stress of work and home life is to have hobbies. Incorporating nature into your hobbies can help provide an almost instant relief from stress. Hiking, biking, nature walks, bird watching, and drawing or painting nature scenes are all examples of hobbies that incorporate nature and help fulfill and recharge the mind and spirit. 4

References:

  1. Stressed? Take a 20-minute ‘nature pill.’ ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190404074915.htm
  2. Weir, K. Nurtured by nature. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/04/nurtured-nature
  3. How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing? University of Minnesota. https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/how-does-nature-impact-our-wellbeing
  4. Singh, J. How Being Outdoors and Getting Active Impacts Stress Management. The American Institute of Stress. https://www.stress.org/how-being-outdoors-and-getting-active-impacts-stress-management

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