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The Great Outdoors relieves that 'tired but wired' feeling we get from stressful work environments, staring at computer screens all day

Nature therapy

(NaturalNews) After a long day of work it's not unusual to feel out of sorts. Many of us who spend our days at a desk, staring at a computer screen, get home feeling utterly exhausted and yet unable to rest at the same time. If this story sounds familiar, the best thing you can do is to put your shoes back on and head outside for a walk.

Research carried out at the University of Essex in 2010 found that spending a mere five minutes every day in nature was enough to boost people's mood and self-esteem.

Senior lecturer in sport and exercise science at the university, Dr. Valerie Gladwell, said: "We think that walking outside releases endorphins and hormones that promote better mood such as oxytocin, the feel good hormone."

Another study from the same university revealed that a 15 to 20 minute walk in nature at lunchtime helped people relax more easily at night, improving their sleep quality.

Getting outside is not always feasible, but the good news is that even looking at nature can help. In studies using MRIs to assess brain activity, the brain's pleasure centers were more likely to light up when people looked at nature than when they looked at built images.

Experts believe that we get that "tired but wired" feeling from stressful and highly focused work, which stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and then leaves it in overdrive. On the other hand, nature stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which governs the areas of our brain that can "rest and restore." This is vital for getting a good night's sleep.

Don't you feel better after spending time outside?

The Telegraph recently profiled a few people who swear that spending time outdoors has helped them physically and mentally.

Illustrator Johanna Basford said that spending time away from the screen in her garden connecting with nature and getting fresh air and sunlight resulted in a dramatic improvement in her migraines.

Tammy Parsons credits her garden allotment with helping her get through a divorce and a bout of breast cancer. She says that the feeling of cold soil in her hands and sunlight on her skin were very healing for her.

Meanwhile, a report by the King's Fund highlights a number of clinical trials which indicate that gardening has many psychological and physical benefits. The report calls on doctors to recommend gardening as therapy for patients.

Gardening is beneficial for arthritis and stroke recovery, as it encourages you to use the parts of the body that were affected. It is also useful for people who have social disabilities, and it can boost the mood as well as the cognition of people suffering from dementia. Its overall impact on well-being has caused some doctors to start prescribing horticultural therapy to patients who are recovering from illness or are dealing with anxiety or depression. The fresh air plays a big role, and the focus on plants and weeds takes people's minds off their pain.

Study after study confirms benefits of spending time outdoors

Countless studies back the notion that time spent outdoors is therapeutic. For example, a 2014 study published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal, showed how exposure to nature improved mental health.

The study's lead author, Richard Ryan, called nature "fuel for the soul." He said: "Often when we feel depleted we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature."

The researchers discovered that even imagining yourself being outdoors or remembering past times spent in nature can increase serotonin levels, thereby boosting your mood, staving off exhaustion and improving your overall health.

Meanwhile, a study out of the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam found that people who lived closer to green spaces had a significantly lower risk of a number of physical and mental illnesses.

So, now that you know just how beneficial spending time outdoors can be, why are you still sitting in front of your computer?

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