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Perhaps doctors should lead with 20 minutes of exposure to nature to reduce stress, instead of higher frequency of drug consumption. Or would that be awfully boring?

According to an April 2019 study, researchers found that just twenty minutes in the outdoors brought stress hormone levels down.

path through nature to reduce stress

20 Minutes of Nature

Researchers asked 36 people to spend 20 minutes in nature to reduce stress for three days a week for two months. These settings included public parks and backyards with a lot of greenery. The time of day was not considered a factor in the study.

They also instructed the participants to avoid exercise and stimulants like social media, phone calls, and reading.

Researchers then measured the levels of cortisol in participants’ saliva samples, both before and after their exposure to nature.

The Results

Spending at least 20 to 30 minutes immersed in nature caused a significant drop in cortisol levels. After the 20 to 30 minutes, stress reduction accrued at a slower rate. 

The study was significant because previous research was never clear for how long nature exposure needs to be. Previous studies have also never specified exactly what type of outdoor setting is impactful.

person putting head in hands, stressed

Nature as a Natural Stress Reducer

Since doctors wanted to know exactly what to advise patients, participants chose the time of day and duration for their exposure. In this way, there was flexibility in the experiment so that the impact could be beneficial to unpredictable schedules. 

Prescribing a 20 minute dose of nature is a cost-effective solution to stress. Its also a tangible reason for people to simply go outdoors and get away from their screens. The negative health impacts from the growing indoor lifestyle have been detrimental over the last decade. 

What’s also interesting about this new information, is the potential inspiration it gives for the general public. It could provide invaluable insight on how to design cities and well being programs for people.

feet hanging out the car in nature

The Bottom Line

The good news is that healthcare practitioners can now feel confident in prescribing “nature” as a tool for reducing stress. Whether its powerful enough alone or simply compliments a stress-reducing drug, the benefits are there and readily available.

Researchers are hoping that this study will be the basis for further experimental approaches. Overall, the experiment was a great tool for assessing the effectiveness of nature experiences on the mind.

For more information on how nature can nurture and others categories of this psychology, visit https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/psychology .

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