If you need natural stress relief, take a ‘nature pill’ – just 20 minutes in nature lowers stress hormone levels.
Whether you walk in a park or sit in a garden, spending a mere 20 minutes in nature significantly lowers stress hormone levels according to a new study that has established the most effective dose of an urban nature experience.
“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,” says Dr MaryCarol Hunter, an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan and lead author of the research.
“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.”
A free and natural stress-buster
Nature pills could be a low-cost solution to reduce the negative health impacts of growing urbanisation and screen time.
The eight-week study
Over an eight-week period, participants were asked to take a nature pill with a duration of 10 minutes or more, at least three times a week.
Levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, were measured from saliva samples taken before and after a nature pill, once every two weeks.
“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 minimise 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,” Hunter explains.
She continues, “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.”
Nature will nurture
The data revealed that just a 20-minute nature experience was enough to significantly reduce cortisol levels.
Spending a little more time immersed in nature, 20 to 30 minutes, cortisol levels dropped at their greatest rate. After that, additional de-stressing benefits continue to add up but at a slower rate.
Source: Frontiers via www.sciencedaily.com
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