How to Relieve Anxiety and Stress with a Nature Pill
How about taking a Nature Pill to relieve your stress? A new study shows that 20 to 30 minutes of being in nature (even just sitting in a nature setting in the middle of a city) reduces stress and anxiety.
What is a Nature Pill?
A nature pill is a name some have given to spending time in nature in a way that has health benefits.
Many studies have shown that being in nature improves both physical and mental health. Researchers from the University of Michigan set out to define what would make the ideal guidance for health care practitioners who see value in prescribing nature pills to their patients and clients. (1)
The Nature Pill study
Thirty-six adults in good health completed the 8-week study.
Study participants were instructed to get Nature Exposure (NE) three times a week. The NE could be anywhere outside that, in the opinion of the participant, included a sufficiency of natural elements to feel like a nature interaction. They could choose the place, time during daylight hours, and duration of the experience. So the study could isolate the effect of being in nature, participants were told not to include aerobic exercise beyond walking and to avoid the use of electronic devices, conversation, and reading. They were told to note the type of activity as: sitting, sitting and walking, or walking.
Participants provided saliva samples before and after their nature exposure four times during the 8 weeks: at the end of the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th weeks. the saliva was tested from the stress markers cortisol and amylase.
The Nature Pill study results
"Both stress biomarkers indicated a reduction in stress in response to a NE."
There was an impressive 20%/hr drop in cortisol and 28%/hr drop in amylase attributed to the participants' nature exposure. (Natural drops in these biochemicals pertaining to the time of day were compensated for in the calculations.)
The most efficient stress reduction occurred when the NE was 20 to 30 minutes long. After 30 minutes there were more stress reduction gains but they accrued at a slower rate.
The type of activity (sitting, sitting & walking, walking) didn't affect the cortisol drop. It did affect the amylase results. The amylase drop was the same for "sitting" and "sitting & walking". These two low-exertion activity groups showed the robust amylase drops. In contrast, walking resulted in a basically unchanged amylase level.
The Nature Pill Perscription
To reduce stress and anxiety: spend 20 to 30 minutes in nature, even a green area in the middle of a city, several times a week.
- MaryCarol R. Hunter, Brenda W. Gillespie, Sophie Yu-Pu Chen. Urban Nature Experiences Reduce Stress in the Context of Daily Life Based on Salivary Biomarkers. Frontiers in Psychology, 2019; 10 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00722
To see a pdf of the study:
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- Ann Silvers