Spending 20 minutes sitting or walking in nature helps lower stress. Lead author of the study Dr. MaryCarol Hunter explained, “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.”
As more and more of us are staying indoors and spending more time online than in the real world, heading outdoors is a cost-effective and simple solution to combatting daily life stresses.
For the study, participants were asked to head outdoors for at least 10 minutes, three times a week over eight weeks. Cortisol levels – the stress hormone – were measured from saliva samples taken before and after heading outdoors, once every two weeks.
Hunter continued, “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. There were a few constraints to minimize factors known to influence stress: take the nature pill in daylight, no aerobic exercise, and avoid the use of social media, internet, phone calls, conversations, and reading.”
“Building personal flexibility into the experiment, allowed us to identify the optimal duration of a nature pill, no matter when or where it is taken, and under the normal circumstances of modern life, with its unpredictability and hectic scheduling.”
The study shows that doctors may want to start prescribing their patients some trips outdoors as a means of reducing stress. Just 20 minutes of being outdoors is enough to drop cortisol levels and cause lasting benefits.
Whether you deal with acute stress or chronic stress, heading outdoors is a simple solution to start reducing your levels of stress.