This time of year can be stressful: budgeting summer vacations, finding a summer job, and just trying to make it through the work day while being teased with this summer weather. How do you find time for your mental health? What is a practical, efficient, and effective solution?
The answer is a healthy dose of nature – 3x a week.
A recent study has shown a reduction in stress biomarkers in our body called cortisol and amylase when individuals experience nature. The efficiency of the "nature pill" to decrease cortisol levels is greatest between 20 – 30 minutes.
Nature will continue to lower cortisol levels for longer durations but at a reduced rate. The authors' methodology was also very practical. The paper emphasizes the idea of relaxing in nature instead of strenuous exercise in nature. They recommend sitting or walking slowly during the nature experience. They let participants choose where and when they would take their nature pill. These allowances reflect an average person's life - busy, hectic, and unpredictable. This means that no matter how sporadic and short your nature dose is, you will still reap some of the benefits!
Nature pills could be a low-cost solution to reduce negative health impacts that happen in an urban environment such as Vancouver.
Before you take your nature pill make sure you are prepared for your experience:
1. Be aware of your surroundings. Going it alone? Staying safe is key. Let someone know where you are going.
2. Protect your skin and body. Dress according to weather conditions - sunscreen, hat, sweater etc.
3. Wear the right footwear. The wrong footwear can increase musculoskeletal pain, so wear comfortable shoes.
4. Stay hydrated. Bring a water bottle!
Hunter, MaryCarol et al. Urban Nature Experiences Reduce Stress in the Context of Daily Life Based on Salivary Biomarkers. Frontiers in Psychology 2019; 722 (10): 1-16.