Mental health medicine: De-stress with a dose of nature each week, researchers suggest
11/25/2019 // Melissa Smith // Views

Stress may be a normal part of every day life, but if it's starting to affect your health, it's time to step back and take a break. Living in the big city can be very stressful. A drastic change in scenery may be in order to get your mind and body feeling rejuvenated to deal with stress once again. A study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology suggests going out and experiencing nature for 20 to 30 minutes each week to unwind and de-stress.

In the study, researchers from the University of Michigan recruited 36 city-dwelling adults aged 22 to 68. Throughout the study period, the participants took a “nature pill.” This means that they will spend time in any outdoor location that they felt provided enough elements to allow a true interaction with nature.

The participants couldn’t do aerobic exercise during their nature experience because of the essential requirements of the study and testing involved. They also avoided the internet, phone calls, social media, and conversations or reading of any kind. They did this at least three times a week for at least 10 minutes, for a period of eight weeks.

The participants also gave saliva samples before and after each nature experience. The samples were used to measure and compare each participants’ levels of cortisol and alpha-amylase – both biological markers of stress.

The results showed that both levels of cortisol and alpha-amylase declined significantly in response to nature experience. In addition, the researchers found that a 20- to 30-minute period provides the most efficient stress-reducing benefits. The researchers concluded that spending at least 20 minutes outdoors can have a significant impact in reducing stress levels. (Related: The science of happiness: Researchers suggest taking your next coffee break outside.)


Relaxing activities you can do outdoors to rejuvenate your mind

Now that you know that spending time out in nature is an effective de-stressor, you may be wondering what nature activities you can do. Here are several relaxing outdoor activities that will refresh your mind and body:

  • Savor the scenery – Try to wake up early and catch the sunrise or go to the nearest hilltop and watch it set. Watching the sunrise will help you prepare mentally for the day ahead, while watching the sunset can help you relax after a long, busy day.
  • Wander – There is no doubt that walking is good for you, but not all walks are the same. Walking down the city streets does not give the same mental boost as wandering in the wilderness. You may also hike a local trail or feel the sandy beach between your toes instead. You don’t have to have a specific destination, just aimlessly immerse yourself in nature.
  • Listen to nature’s sounds – Meditating on the music that nature offers is different from the kind playing in your headphones. Nature’s sounds are calming. Go out and hear the chirping of the birds or the whistling of the wind through the trees.
  • Try camping – You may also consider staying away from home for a few days. Watch the starry night outdoors.
  • Go for a picnic – One of the most enjoyable things to do out in nature is have a picnic with your friends or family. This can be a way for you to socialize and talk to others, which also have mental health benefits. Load a basket with healthy foods.

While these tips can indeed help you out, they can be challenging, especially if you have stayed indoors most of your life. For this reason, it’s best to start small by setting meetups with friends in and outside work.

Read more articles on how to take care of your mental health naturally at

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