Spending time in nature for at least 20 minutes a day is the best way to decrease stress levels, according to a recent study published in Frontiers in Psychology.
The modern life urges us to act more as machines rather than natural beings. We need to be precise, correct and on time, all the time. That’s not how humans were meant to live.
This kind of lifestyle creates massive stress in humans because we are natural beings, not robots. There is a study that tells exactly how much we need natural lifestyle.
Forty four people participated in an eight week experiment, called the “nature pill’’ by the scientists. The study aimed to see the benefits of spending time in nature.
The participants had to spend at least 10 minutes in nature, three times a week. The results showed the power and benefits of spending time in nature.
A group of forty four participants did an experiment that lasted for 8 weeks where they were given a daily task to take a “nature pill’’ when and where they wanted. Psychologists wanted to see the effects spending time in nature has on the human psyche.
“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.” Dr MaryCarol Hunter, an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan and lead author of the study explained.
Participants were required to avoid talking, reading or physical exercise during their 10 minutes. Things like phones, social media and internet were not allowed.
The participants had freedom of choice as a key variable in the equation. They were able to decide when and where they will take their ‘’nature pill’’ and for how long they will stay outside.
“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.” Dr Hunter explained.
Each participant took saliva samples before and after having their “nature pill’’. The samples were went to the researchers at the end of the first, third and seventh week.
After analyzing the saliva of the participants, the scientists found that the cortisol levels decreased by 21% per hour when the participants spend 20 to 30 minutes in nature. The stress hormone was reduced by 12% per hour.
“We accommodated day to day differences in a participant’s stress status. We did that by collecting four snapshots of cortisol change due to the natural pill…” says Hunter.
“It also allowed us to identify and account for the impact of the ongoing, natural drop in cortisol level as the day goes on. That made the estimate of effective duration more reliable.” Hunter continues.
“The data revealed that just a twenty minute nature experience was enough to significantly reduce cortisol levels. But if you spent a little more time immersed in nature experience, 20 to 30 minutes sitting or walking, cortisol levels dropped at their greatest rate. After that, additional de stressing benefits continue to add up but at a slower rate.” Dr Hunter explained.
Human beings are part of the natural world. We are beings that best thrive when we live in balance with the natural world. We don’t just need Nature but we, ourselves, are part of Nature. We are part of the greater being that Nature encompasses.
It’s no wonder that spending time in nature, even if it’s for 10 minutes, can have a drastic positive effect on our health. It’s where our physical, emotional, spiritual and mental systems become balanced.
As this study showed, spending time in nature should be something that we do daily. No matter if it’s a walk in the park, hiking, or running in the woods, spending just 10 minutes per day can have immense benefits for your physical and mental health.
And the excuse of not having enough time in your daily schedule should be the exact reason why you should spend even more than 10 minutes per day. The modern lifestyle has moved us away from the natural world but that’s exactly why we stress so much.
The daily hectic lifestyle and the stress of modern society are the biggest reasons why we should trust studies like this one and take their advice in action. You can try it for a week and see the benefits yourself.