Too much stress doesn’t just feel bad. It is bad.
Stepping outdoors has long been considered a panacea for life’s stressors. Now research agrees. One of the best ways to reduce stress and enhance your sense of wellbeing is to be nurtured by nature.
Being in nature is associated with lower levels of cortisol, a hormone secreted by the adrenal gland that kicks into high gear under times of stress. Too much cortisol can negatively affect your memory, learning, immune functioning, bone density, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart health and mental wellbeing.
It turns out that connecting with nature is a great antidote. Time in nature can help you relax and focus, and improve your mood.
In Japan, taking brief, leisurely strolls in the forest is called “Shinrin-Yoku” or “Forest Bathing”, and it has long been a popular way to deeply de-stress, relax and reconnect with the slower-paced, more oxygen-saturated natural world. Forest Bathing, which combines the exercise of walking with the therapeutic effects of being out of doors and inhaling the essential oils released by the trees, can help build immunity and positively affect mood.
Organic gardening is another way to connect with nature and replenish your mind-body- spirit. Tending a vegetable garden, growing herbs or plants on your porch, and native xeriscaping are all ways to get your hands in the dirt. Organic is essential, as it invites a deeper, healthier relationship between yourself, plants, the soil and the interconnected ecosystem.
Time spent bonding with animal companions is being increasingly recognized as having a positive physiological effect on humans, and it’s good for the animal companion as well. Even a few minutes spent with an animal companion can be a positive experience for all creatures involved.
When was the last time you spent some time outdoors or with a companion animal?
What are some ways you can spend time in nature or with an animal companion this week? Even today? Perhaps this very moment?
©2015 Suzannah Ferron, MA, LMFT. All rights reserved.
For Further Reading
- “Research Shows Nature Helps With Stress” by Jared Green
- “Does Looking at Nature Make People Nicer?” by Jared Green
- “Connect With Nature to Reduce Stress” by David Suzuki
- “The Natural Way To Calm Down” by Emily Main
- “Your Brain on Nature: Forest Bathing and Reduced Stress” by Eva Selhub and Alan Logan
- “Pet Therapy: How Animals And Humans Heal Each Other” by Julie Rovner
- “UCLA People-Animal Connection (PAC) Program”
- “Accessible Gardening for Therapeutic Horticulture by Jean Larson, Anne Hancheck, Paula Vollmar
- “GPs Devise New Treatment to Beat Depression. It’s Called Gardening.” by Matt Chorely
- “Sensory Gardens Give People a Place to Heal” by Sarah Zobel