Feeling stressed? Join the club! We can’t book spa getaways these days, but we do have a soothing tool right outside our doors – literally.
An increasing field of research shows the major benefits of working some nature breaks into your daily schedule.
Researchers from the University of Michigan found that spending time outside can do wonders in lowering stress hormone levels. This urban “nature pill” can include walking, doing a physical activity or simply just sitting in nature. The researchers found a gradual decrease in stress after just 20 minutes – and a dramatic drop after another 10. Therefore, they concluded, a 30-minute nature experience is ideal, but even five minutes can have benefits.
In fact, a study in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that just five minutes outdoors was linked to a host of medical benefits, including a significant mood boost and less mental distress and negative thoughts.
The Japanese call the act of connecting with nature through our senses “forest bathing” (shinrin-yoku). “Make sure you have left your phone and camera behind. You are going to be walking aimlessly and slowly. You don’t need any devices. Let your body be your guide. Listen to where it wants to take you. … You are savoring the sounds, smells and sights of nature and letting the forest in,” advises Dr. Qing Li, who wrote a book on the virtues of the practice.
You don’t need a vast expanse of stunning scenery, scientists say, just time away from your phone, computer and the myriad decisions you make each day.
“When you go outside, try to register with nature right away to stop the whirring brain,” advises Mary Carol R. Hunter, lead researcher of the U-M study. “Just stop and be mindful of where you are.”
Being mindful is an essential element of thinking big. Doctor’s orders: Get outdoors!