A recent study found that taking a 'nature pill' every day will put your mind at ease.

By Jenny Krane
Updated April 11, 2019

If eating your lunch outside every day could lower your risk for diabetes or hypertension, would you do it? We’ve all heard about the medical dangers that chronic stress puts on the body, but for most of us, being less stressed is easier said than done. A recent study conducted by the University of Michigan set out to determine how stress and spending time outside are related, and the ideal amount of outdoors time is more than doable for most.

This study found that taking 20 minutes to walk or sit in nature significantly lowers your stress hormone (or cortisol) levels. The researchers are calling this chunk of time spent in contact with nature a 'nature pill.' This dose of nature is measurable and allows healthcare professionals to prescribe with the knowledge that they affect their patients like a dose of a medication.

Stress can cause a multitude of problems for your mental and physical health. According to the American Institute of Stress, stress can raise blood pressure, trigger tension headaches, cause irregular breathing, give you acid reflux, and increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Chronic stress can also increase feelings of depression, trigger panic attacks, and make it difficult to fall and stay asleep.

The overarching message: Stress throws your whole body out of whack. That’s why these researchers went searching for an effective stress-buster.

The participants of the study were observed over an eight-week period and were asked to spend 10+ minutes outside at least three times a week. Each participants’ cortisol levels were measured before and after a nature pill once every two weeks.

Those observed had the freedom to choose what time of day they took their nature pill, where they took it, and for how long. There were a few constraints: The participants needed to take their nature pill during daylight, they needed to avoid external interaction (phone calls, conversations, social media), and their time outside was not to be accompanied by aerobic exercise.

The data showed that between 20 and 30 minutes in nature was the sweet spot for significantly reducing cortisol levels. After 30 minutes, cortisol levels still dropped but at a slower rate.

If you struggle with chronic stress, try taking just 20 minutes out of your day to reconnect with Mother Nature. This could mean anything from taking your lunch break outside or going for a quick stroll around the neighborhood before dinner. It will help your mind in the long run.

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