If you’re looking for a good way to unwind: Just go outside
One helpful trick to keep yourself from getting burned out may actually be as simple as taking a short walk in nature, according to a study by the University of Michigan.
The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, suggests that taking 20 minutes to stroll in nature can reduce your stress hormone levels. The study coined this remedy as a “nature pill.”
The study rounded up participants, asking them to take a walk for 10 minutes or more, at least 3 times a week. Levels of the stress hormone cortisol were measured using saliva swabs both before and after the so-called “nature pill.” The study found that after the walks cortisol was cut by 10 percent on average.
“Participants were free to choose the time of day, duration, and the place of their nature experience,” said Dr. MaryCarol Hunter, Associate Professor at the University of Michigan and lead author of the study. “Building personal flexibility into the experiment, allowed us to identify the optimal duration of a nature pill, no matter when or where it is taken, and under the normal circumstances of modern life, with its unpredictability and hectic scheduling.”
Nature could be defined by the participants as anywhere where they feel they’re interacting with a natural setting. If you live in a city, even a small park, a patch of grass, or any area with trees can suffice.
During the walks, participants were not allowed to do aerobic exercise or use social media, internet, take phone calls, have conversations, or even read. Also, the “nature pill” had to be in daylight.
These findings are in sync with other studies that propose getting out into nature in order to stay stress-free. One study posited that fishing trips, in particular, are good for your mental health.
But stress isn’t just about your mind. It can also take its toll on the body. According to the American Heart Association, stress “may affect behaviors and factors that increase heart disease risk: high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, smoking, physical inactivity and overeating.”
It’s clear that relaxing makes a big difference in people’s health. Better yet, this makes a good argument for taking a vacation, which could actually help you live longer, according to one study.