I've always intuitively known that one of the better, free stress reduction tools at our disposal is just a good ol' fashioned dose of being out in Mother Nature. But for the first time, researchers from the University of Michigan have identified and are recommending a "nature prescription"--a specific dose of time for sitting or walking in nature (called a "nature pill" by the researchers).
I'll let the lead researcher, Dr. MaryCarol Hunter, share the specific recommendation:
We know that spending time in nature reduces stress, but until now it was unclear how much is enough, how often to do it, or even what kind of nature experience will benefit us. 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.
More specifically, just 20 minutes is enough to significantly drop cortisol levels (cortisol being your body's main stress hormone), but 20-30 minutes drops these levels at the greatest rate. The researchers noted that the benefit comes from sitting or walking in nature, not running/aerobically exercising (which influences stress) and that it should exclude any conversations, reading, or social media.
Just imagine: 25 minutes strolling on your favorite nature trail, without another soul in site, and no sounds but the lightly swirling wind through the trees and the occasional rustling of leaves or chirping of a bird. And did I mention no co-workers?
I get it. This is one chill pill I can swallow.
Of course, I also get that there's the matter of when you can get around to it. All I can say is that it's critical to make time for it (and for your health in general).
Perhaps the single best benefit from my decision to leave the corporate world to become an entrepreneur is the flexibility that comes with it. I now build exercise into my day, one day doing weights and cardio indoors, one day doing weights and a walk in nature. I think of it as a total mind and body exercise program.
I can tell you first-hand that the stress reduction from regularly being out in nature for even just 20-30 minutes is very real. So, I thank the University of Michigan for confirming it and institutionalizing it with an actual recommended dose.
Make this one pill you work into your healthcare regimen. It turns out that nature really does nurture.