A 10-Minute Walk in Nature Reduces Stress, Anxiety, and Depression

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Nature(NaturalHealth365) Ecotherapy. Nature therapy. Green exercise. Tree hugging. Yes, being active in natural spaces has as many trendy names as there are species of trees in the forest.  But, buzzwords aside, it appears a little good old-fashioned outdoor activity goes a long way!

Researchers have begun measuring the healing power of nature, and 10-minutes of outdoor activity is all it takes to positively impact an individual’s health and wellbeing, reducing stress, anxiety and depression.

According to new research published in Frontiers in Psychology, an interdisciplinary Cornell team found that as little as 10-minutes in a natural setting helped college students (ages 15-30) feel happier and lessened the effects of both physical and mental stress. Overall, 10-50 minutes in a natural setting proved to be the most effective way to improve mood, focus, blood pressure, and heart rate.

Calling on all doctors: Start “prescribing” more time in nature

E.O. Wilson, the “father of sociobiology and biodiversity,” had a theory called the biophilia hypothosis in which he stated that humans have an innate relationship to nature. Remove them from their natural environment, in other words, and it may have an adverse effect on their health.

According to a survey by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors. If human have an innate relationship with nature, then being prescribed more time outdoors – walking, gardening, horseback-riding, strolling a beach or sitting in a park – is going to have a positive and therapeutic effect.

It doesn’t matter what type of green space one is exposed to, as long as time is spent interacting in that green space.

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Physical activity and opportunities for socialization

Natural settings encourage physical activity, provide opportunities for social interactions, and can give individuals a sense of purpose and achievement, all of which improve mental health and wellbeing. However, while nature experience is associated with increased happiness and management of life’s tasks, integrating it into our daily life – even for 10 minutes – has become increasingly complicated in the age of social media, screen time, and digital dependence.

Spending time in nature may reduce stress, anxiety and depression, but convincing people to get outdoors and engage in green exercise, let alone 10-minutes of digital detox, causes half those people stress, anxiety and depression.

The Scandinavian Model of Happiness

Every year the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network releases a list of the World’s Happiest Countries, and every year Nordic countries such as Norway, Finland, and Denmark top the list. Nature is a central feature in everyday life in Scandinavia; friluftsliv, or “open air living,” is so ingrained in the culture that companies build it into the working week.

Is getting back to nature what makes Scandinavia a happy place? How  much does allmanstratten -“the ability to roam” – reduce stress, anxiety and depression and lead to spiritual and physical wellbeing? Here, on this side of the Atlantic, a 10-minute walk is a small step but it’s a step in the right direction.

Sources for this article include:

Medicalxpress.com
EPA.gov
BBC.com