Chronic stress plagues so many of us. When everyday pressures feel overwhelming, it can take a toll mentally and physically. Did you know there’s a free, unlimited supply of all-natural stress reliever available to anyone?
It’s not a secret… it’s nature!
Spending time in nature has scientifically documented positive effects on physical and mental health. It’s a stress reduction technique promoted by trusted health organizations such as the American Heart Association.
I’ve personally experienced the restorative effects of nature. It’s been so helpful that I start to crave it during stressful times.
Read on to learn more about how spending time in nature helps to relieve stress, its health benefits, and practical tips for making it a regular practice.
Tips are based on personal experience and should not be considered medical advice. Full disclaimer.
Why nature helps to relieve stress
For thousands of years, and most of human history, humans spent most of their time outdoors. Being connected to nature is part of our biology. It was essential for survival.
Yet today, we spend most of our time indoors under artificial light staring at screens. Our brains are constantly bombarded by fast-moving stimuli grabbing for our attention. We multitask to the extreme and many find it hard to wind down, even to sleep.
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Nature takes us back to the core of our humanity. Its slower pace and wide-open spaces are what we’re wired for. It just feels good.
Nature’s beauty can inspire gratitude for our presence on this earth, and its vastness makes everyday troubles seem small. Being in nature also encourages physical activity, which benefits our bodies and minds.
Regular exposure to sunlight has multiple positive effects for emotional and physical wellness. It boosts the “happiness hormone” serotonin and helps regulate melatonin to create good sleep patterns.
Benefits of nature for stress relief
Stress alters chemicals in the body that can wreak havoc if left unchecked. The toll chronic stress can take is well established. I’ve been there… tense, painful muscles, daily headaches, anxiety, trouble sleeping, and high blood pressure. The list of stress-induced health ailments goes on.
For the overstressed, adding another to-do can seem overwhelming. While there are many ways to fight stress, getting outside may be one of the easiest. It’s free, requires little effort, and is readily available.
Being in a natural environment reduces levels of stress, including both feelings of overwhelm and those problematic stress chemicals. People who report feeling more connected to nature have more positive mood, vitality, and life satisfaction.
Ever step outside, hear the birds chirping, breathe some fresh air, and immediately feel a sense of relief? That’s the power of nature. Nature’s effects can be both fast-acting and build over time. Use your natural surroundings to help melt away worry and boost joy.For more tips on boosting mood, see the foolproof ways to find joy in your day.
Nature activities for stress reduction
So how can you get more nature to help relieve stress?
It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. The important thing is to make it a regular part of your life. Go for a nice walk outside a few times a week. We like to walk our dog as a family. My boss takes her conference calls on walks outside.
Make nature a part of your weekends too. Play outside with your kids, go for a hike, or just relax in one of your favorite outdoor spots. Wilderness-like settings may be better for stress reduction than urban nature environments according to some research, but both still help so do what you can.
There are endless ways to spend time outside, so find something that’s enjoyable to you! I like hiking and kayaking, and I’m always trying new things. Move your workout outdoors if the weather allows.
When you can, try to get a longer stretch in nature. The beach is my favorite place to go when I’m able. I find it so relaxing.
Is there a natural spot nearby that you’ve never visited? Make a plan to go. I know a family who made a challenge to visit all the state parks in their state, and they did it!
When you travel somewhere, schedule time in nature as part of your visit. When visiting Denver for the first time for a conference, my husband and I made sure we made it out to the Rocky mountains. We headed out early one morning to watch the sunrise from 14,000 feet. It’s still stuck in my mind as one of my favorite memories together.
Camping is one of my family’s primary modes of vacation. Aside from being frugal for a single-income family of six, I find camping to be a great way to get immersed in nature for a few days.
On our last camping trip, my favorite moment happened at 4:30 am. Annoyed that I had to pee, I began the trek to the bath house by myself.
I looked up, and the moon had gone below the horizon, allowing the stars to light up the night sky. I could see the Milky Way overhead, and the sky was completely painted with stars.
I paused to take it all in. In a few moments, I saw two shooting stars. Seeing the edges of our galaxy, Mars, and thousands of stars all around me was so immensely beautiful and humbling. I was filled with wonder by this visual reminder that we’re all on a tiny blue ball hurtling through space.
These few moments made all the bug bites, prep work, and early mornings that come along with camping worth it. It’s why I long for the comfort of nature when regular life gets stressful. I know this memory will stick with me for a long time.
Can’t get outside?
Listening to nature sounds or looking at nature pictures can work as a substitute for the real thing when you’re not able to get outside. Listening to ocean sounds on my headphones at night helps relieve stress for me.
Let your imagination take you to your favorite natural spot, and you can relive the peaceful feelings you get from there. I even used this trick during labor.
Nature’s benefits for kids
Chronic stress is plaguing more and more kids. That’s why regular green time is so important. It reduces stress just like in adults, along with other great benefits for growing bodies, such as strengthening the immune system, building muscle, improving mood, and promoting quality sleep.
Any parent is probably familiar with how kids start to go stir crazy after too much time indoors. They need to be outside! There’s only so much movement you can do inside. Kids need space to run and be loud, to dig in the dirt, and to experiment with their natural environment.
Tons of free play is perfect for kids and means less planning for you. Stressed out kids in particular can greatly benefit from unstructured time outdoors.
You can also mix it up with activities like scavenger hunts. Several nature centers in my area offer free programs for kids, including nature walks, learn to fish sessions, and more. Explore your local area for what it has to offer and show your kids the wonders of being outside. You’ll benefit too.
Are you convinced of nature’s power to relieve stress? I hope you will experience it for yourself, if you haven’t already! Give yourself a prescription for nature and get inspired to head outdoors more often. Your mind and body will thank you.
Share this with someone you care about who could use a break from stress.