It’s Stress Awareness Month, so you might have noticed an increase in stress-related headlines filtering into your morning news feed. Rather than flagging up the impact of rising stress and anxiety levels on our health, a new study offers a refreshingly easy-to-implement solution that could lower your cortisol levels (the stress hormone).
Researchers at the University of Michigan found that prescribing a ‘nature pill’, or spending 20 minutes immersed in nature could reduce your stress levels. The eight-week study asked people to take a ‘nature pill’ of more than 10 minutes a day, at least three times a week. Researchers measured cortisol levels from saliva tests taken before and after the pill.
“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,” says Dr. Mary Carol Hunter, associate professor at the University of Michigan and lead author of this research. “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.”
That ‘sense of nature’ could be anything from taking a leisurely stroll through the park, sitting in a plant-filled room, spending time in your garden, et cetera. Dr Hunter purposely kept the requirements loose and flexible to work around hectic lifestyles. “There were a few constraints to minimize factors known to influence stress: take the nature pill in daylight, no aerobic exercise, and avoid the use of social media, internet, phone calls, conversations and reading,” Hunter explains.
While 10-minutes was the minimum time-frame set and around 20-minutes was when cortisol levels started to drop, the study found that those who spent between 20 and 30-minutes surrounded by nature showed the greatest decrease in stress.
For those that live and work in a concrete jungle, it could be time to invest in some house plants – we recommend Patch Plants, who have a section for plants that thrive in the shade and ones that can survive almost anything, including neglect.
And, for the days when escaping for as little as 10 minutes is impossible, it’s worth keeping a bottle of Magnolia Rhodiola Complex in your desk drawer. The clever blend of rhodiola rosea, magnolia extract and L-theanine helps to relax you physically and mentally. If stress is affecting your sleep, it is also worth reading Shabir’s feature How To Combat Stress Effectively.