Stress reduction might be one of our biggest desires. How fantastic that walking, which is so easily accessible, can dramatically reduce stress and tension in our lives. Let’s walk through a few scientific and innate reasons why we should do regular walking in nature to reduce daily stress.
Let science speak:
Daily 20-minute outdoors with a natural element reduces stress levels.
Recent study found that a regular 20-30 minutes walk a day decreases stress cortisol levels up to 10%. Just sitting next to a tree or bush is enough. It’s Important to have your full attention with nature, so no disturbance of social media and phone calls. [Hunter, M.…(2019)]
Spending time in nature improves your attention span, problem-solving skills and creative abilities. This might not reduce the stress you are currently experiencing. Though in the long-term if you improve your attention and become more capable of solving problems, it makes you more resilient to change. This gives you a sense of control and adaptability to life's circumstances thereby reducing the amount of stress around life decisions. [Atchley AR, Strayer, DL, Atchley P (2012)]
It also reduces significantly your blood pressure and heart rate, two signs that normally indicate that we are stressed out. A Japanse researcher explain that a lot has to do with the scents (phytoncides) given off by trees. These natural oils from the plants decrease the body's level of stress hormones. They also found that a walk in nature produces calming effects on our nervous system, positively increasing the body’s ability to rest and recover and reducing the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our flight or fight mode. [Qing, L (2017)]
Let our unconscious wisdom speak…
Indigenous communities all around the world know for centuries the importance of the innate relationship between humans and nature. The Maori us the word ‘kaitiakitanga’ meaning guarding and protecting the environment in order to respect the ancestors and secure the future.
An ancient Quecha word ´Sumak Kawsay` means the good life, used by several indigenous Andean communities. Where ´Sumak` refers to the beautiful planet and ´Kawsay` to life. They understand that these elements cannot exist without each other.
In the west we might have forgotten our co-existence with nature. Though deep down we are programmed that nature increases our possibility to survive by giving us access to food and fresh water. Therefore, living in the city naturally produces stress, as we do not attend to this most innate survival instinct. Walking in nature on a regular basis will let you satisfy this innate desire thereby reducing stress levels.
ENOUGH TO GET STARTED!
- Time & frequency: Try for the next 8 weeks a walk in nature at least 3 times a week for 20-30 minutes.
- Place: Look for something easily accessible from your home, so you don’t have any reason not to go. A park with a few trees and bushes is enough and discover for yourself how this impacts your sense of wellbeing.
- Off grid: Leave your phone behind or put it in flight mode and walk aimlessly and slow. In case you look at your phone in these 20 minutes, the time starts again from the beginning.
Enjoy the walk!
Note: There is a wealth of research available on the impact of nature and walking on our well being, so in case you are not convinced yet, have a little search yourself.
On my mind....