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20 – 30 Minutes In Nature Reduces Anxiety, Depression, and Stress

Marilyn Folk BScN medical reviewer
Written by: Jim Folk.
Reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: April 10, 2019


20 – 30 Minutes In Nature Reduces Anxiety, Depression, and Stress

All of us at anxietycentre.com are proponents of using natural strategies to reduce and overcome issues with anxiety, depression, and unhealthy stress. Spending time in nature is one such strategy that can produce significant benefits, and it’s relatively cost effective with no adverse side effects (as long as you keep yourself safe when in nature).

I believe most of us know that spending time in nature reduces anxiety, depression, and stress. Recent research has qualified that knowledge.

Research[1] published in Frontiers In Psychology in 2014 noted:

Proximity to greenspace has been associated with lower levels of stress (Thompson et al., 2012)[2] and reduced symptomology for depression and anxiety (Beyer et al., 2014).[3] 

A recent epidemiological study has shown that people who move to greener urban areas benefit from sustained improvements in their mental health (Alcock et al., 2014).[4]

Moreover, a study[5] in 2016 published in Nature Scientific Reports found that parks offered health benefits, including reduced risks of developing heart disease, stress, anxiety and depression.

"If everyone visited their local parks for half an hour each week there would be seven per cent fewer cases of depression and nine percent fewer cases of high blood pressure," Dr Danielle Shanahan, UQ CEED researcher, said.

Co-researcher, Associate Professor Richard Fuller, continued:

"We've known for a long time that visiting parks is good for our health, but we are now beginning to establish exactly how much time we need to spend in parks to gain these benefits," he said.

"We have specific evidence that we need regular visits of at least half an hour to ensure we get these benefits."

And, just a week ago (April 4, 2019), another study[6] announced, “Stressed? Take a 20-minute nature pill.” The research press release states:

"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. MaryCarol Hunter, an 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."

The press release continued:

"Healthcare practitioners can use our results as an evidence-based rule of thumb on what to put in a nature-pill prescription," says Hunter. "It provides the first estimates of how nature experiences impact stress levels in the context of normal daily life. It breaks new ground by addressing some of the complexities of measuring an effective nature dose."

The researchers further noted:

The data revealed that just a twenty-minute nature experience was enough to significantly reduce cortisol levels. But if you spent a little more time immersed in a nature experience, 20 to 30 minutes sitting or walking, cortisol levels dropped at their greatest rate. After that, additional de-stressing benefits continue to add up but at a slower rate.

These aren’t the only studies that found spending time in nature benefits mental health. There are numerous others.

So, spending time in nature is scientifically proven to reduce anxiety, depression, and stress hormone levels, which can be an important tool when working to overcome anxiety disorder and its symptoms.

Since anxiety symptoms are symptoms of stress, and stress raises cortisol levels thereby increasing symptoms, regularly spending time in nature can provide significant mental and physical health benefits, including reducing anxiety and its symptoms.

Spending time in nature can be an important strategy for long-term good mental and physical health.


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REFERENCES:

1. Pearson, David, et al. "The great outdoors? Exploring the mental health benefits of natural environments." Frontiers in Psychology, 21, Oct. 2014, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4204431/#B36

2. Thompson C. W., Roe J., Aspinall P., Mitchell R., Clow A., Miller D. (2012). More green space is linked to less stress in deprived communities: evidence from salivary cortisol patterns. Landscape Urban Plann. 105, 221–229. 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2011.12.015

3. Beyer K. M. M., Kaltenbach A., Szabo A., Bogar S., Nieto F. J., Malecki K. M. (2014). Exposure to neighbourhood green space and mental health: Evidence from the survey of the health of Wisconsin. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 11, 3453–3472. 10.3390/ijerph110303453

4. Alcock I., White M. P., Wheeler B. W., Fleming L. E., Depledge M. H. (2014). Longitudinal effects on mental health of moving to greener and less green urban areas. Environ. Sci. Technol. 48, 1247–1255. 10.1021/es403688w

5. Shanahan, Danielle F., et al. “Health Benefits from Nature Experiences Depend on Dose.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 23 June 2016, www.nature.com/articles/srep28551.

6. Hunter, MaryCarol, et al. “Urban Nature Experiences Reduce Stress in the Context of Daily Life Based on Salivary Biomarkers.” Frontiers in Psychology, 4 Apr. 2019, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00722/full


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