Can 20 Minutes of Nature Reduce Stress?

ou’ve probably heard that time immersed in nature can heal you. But if you’re like me, you’re looking for details.

How much nature?

What type of nature, exactly?

And let’s get real: How long do you have to “immerse” yourself?

For a long time, we haven’t really had answers to these questions. But a new study published in Frontiers Psychology gives us more specifics on how exactly we can use nature to improve our health.

Is Nature the Antidote to Stress?

We’ve long known that nature is associated with lower stress levels. For example, one study suggests a beneficial association between green space exposure and reduced stress, positive mood, less depressive symptoms, better emotional well-being, improved mental health and behavior, and decreased psychological distress in adolescents. Another study showed that there are significant differences in disease prevalence between residents living in very green and less green settings, even after controlling for socioeconomic status. Previous research has been able to draw associations between time in nature and wide range of health issues, including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Various infectious diseases
  • Cancer
  • Healing from surgery
  • Obesity
  • Birth outcomes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Musculoskeletal complaints
  • Migraines
  • Respiratory disease

Neighborhood greenness has even been consistently associated with a greater life expectancy. Finally, a study showed that people who move from a less green to a more green area have significantly better mental health in the three post-move years, which suggests the benefit isn’t short-lived but instead persists over many years, possibly even indefinitely.

Now, moving into the mountains or forest isn’t an option for most of us, but many of us could find ways to build nature time into our day — or at least our week — which is why a new study published in Frontiers Psychology is particularly helpful. The results don’t just show us that nature can improve our mental and physical health, they provide us with the details.

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