Nature decreases stress

Spending as little as 5 minutes in nature can improve our health.

A multitude of studies indicate that being out in nature is good for us.

This summer the Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia published an article with their results from surveying 140 studies done in 20 countries involving more than 290 million people, confirming that “living close to nature and spending time outside has significant and wide ranging health benefits”.  They looked at time spent in urban parks and with street greenery, as well as studies in forests.

It certainly has an impact on stress:                                                                                              Dr. Twohig-Bennett notes that “one of the really interesting things we found is that exposure to greenspace significantly reduces people’s levels of salivary cortisol  –  a physiological marker of stress.”

Being outdoors in the forest for 20 minutes has been found to increase:

  • sleep duration
  • health
  • heart rate variability   (providing more resilience when stressed)
  • strength of relationships
  • mood
  • creativity
  • reflection
  • innovation

and to decrease:

  • blood pressure
  • risk of Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease,
  • premature death, and preterm birth
  • pain
  • stress

Even as little as 5 minutes in nature can have a positive impact.

And the benefits are from more than just walking.  People walking in city areas without greenery did not get the same results as those walking in greenspace.

There is something special about being outdoors with nature, whether in city parks or deep in the forest.  Nature may expose us to healthy bacteria that decrease inflammation and enhance immune function.  Japanese researchers report that much of the benefit comes from breathing in phytoncides which are antimicrobial compounds such as alpha-pinene and limonene that are produced by trees.

Being in nature is a powerful stress management approach,                                                      whether you call it Ecotherapy, Nature Therapy, shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing”) or green therapy.

It’s time to get outside!



For effective, practical stress management skills that enhance health and performance, check out the Stress Management & High Performance Clinic programs at

Kathy Somers, R.Kin, BCB


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