After a long day, the last thing we desire is more on our schedule. Instead, wouldn’t it feel amazing to be able to relax and release the stress of the day? What could that even look like?
Maybe it is spending some alone time with a warm bath or a walk around the neighborhood? Listening to music, journaling, meditating, or gardening? Perhaps, it is meeting up with friends and sharing in laughter and connection? Hugging your partner or playing with your children. If we allow ourselves to believe it is possible, the opportunities are plentiful.
A particularly satisfying way to reduce stress is to get outdoors. Go for a walk, sit with a good book or journal and soak in some sun, grab a ball and go play at the park, take a hike, boogie board in the ocean, etc. Being in nature has numerous benefits on our wellbeing. In fact, a 2019 study in Frontiers in Psychology found that spending 20-30 minutes in nature reduces the stress hormone, cortisol. How does that impact us? First and foremost, by increasing feelings of peace and calm while reducing anxiety, stress, and depression.
Yet the benefits of being in nature don’t stop there. Spending time in the natural world improves our health with studies showing reduced blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension. Time outdoors can also improve memory. A study from the University of Michigan showed that talking a walk in nature improved scores on a memory test by 20%. Being in the sun positively impacts sleep, particularly helping you feel more tired at night, making it easier to fall asleep while also improving the quality of sleep. Exposure to natural environments (parks, forests, mountains, beaches, etc) increase our resilience, enhancing our ability to cope with and recover from illness, injury, and stress.
You don’t even need that much time to reap the benefits. Research shows that after just five minutes in nature our mood and self-esteem improve. A large report by Martha Erickson showed the positive impact of nature on family bonds. Specifically, the reduction of stress on both parents and children and the strengthening of connection, cooperation, and trust. And nature makes us nicer! Researchers at the University of Rochester found that, “nature brings out more social feelings, more value in community and close relationships, People are more caring when they’re around nature.”
In the words of John Muir, “In every walk in with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” So, the next time you are wishing to release the stress of the day, look at your opportunities to experience the natural world. You can enjoy the benefits by spending minutes, hours or days; staying local or taking a road-trip; engaging in activity or lounging around. Don’t delay, begin today!