Have you ever felt more peaceful after walking through a forest or spending an afternoon watching the waves and seagulls on the beach? It’s no secret that spending time in nature can be cathartic and relaxing. Did you know that the research shows that nature can also relieve stress? Since stress can cause a host of physical and mental health issues (including hypertension, obesity, depression, and anxiety), it makes sense to do what you can to reduce stress whenever possible. Read on for some ways to use the power of nature to relieve your stress and that of your family members.
Just Get Into the Great Outdoors
If you live near natural surroundings like the woods, a meadow, a lake, the mountains, or an ocean, then you have the perfect opportunity to soak up some nature. Plan a Saturday picnic or, if you live in a rural or relatively undeveloped area, make it a regular practice to find time to sit or walk around in the great outdoors. You can also make it a practice to look out the window often or to sit out on your porch or deck. You could also get your hands into the soil by taking up gardening or just spending some time each week working on your yard or even in a community garden.
Many people, of course, live in urban or suburban areas where there is not a lot of nature surrounding them. Don’t worry; there are options for you, too. If you can get to a botanical garden, a zoo, or other facility where nature abounds, this is a great opportunity to see foliage and fauna. If you live in the city and you don’t have any nearby or affordable options for seeing nature, even potted plants and trees that are planted in medians can help raise your spirits and relieve stress.
Incorporate Exercise Into Your Nature Appreciation
Exercising regularly can help combat stress in a number of ways. First, it raises endorphin levels. Secondly, it helps you sleep better, and getting more hours of high-quality sleep can help you better deal with the stress that comes up in everyone’s life. Finally, in some cases, exercise can help you meet and connect with others, which can, in turn, lower your stress levels.
Gather a group of friends for a day of swimming or walking at your local natural body of water. If you live in the city, consider jogging in an area with planted trees, or see if you can get out of town to hike, bike, or paddle a kayak in a nearby undeveloped area. You might even be able to join a soccer or softball league that plays at a local park.
Doing yoga can also help relieve stress, and this might be even more beneficial if you can do it outdoors. Find a grassy spot where you can lay down your mat and enjoy some yoga positions by yourself or with friends. If you live near a beach, it’s possible that you can arrive for beach yoga at certain times; this is becoming increasingly popular as people learn about the benefits of yoga.
Disconnect From Technology
One of the pitfalls of the 21st century when it comes to enjoying nature is technology. It’s possible to spend an entire day in the great outdoors but never really get the chance to let it ease your stress, because you are checking your email, replying to texts, and reading the news. Your teens might be even more entrenched in what’s going on in their virtual lives and unlikely to want to leave their phones behind for a trek into the woods. You might find, however, that when you or your kids are depending on electronics for entertainment or information, you end up with a lot of information overload. The flickering lights are also not good for your stress levels. They can interfere with your circadian rhythm and make it difficult to sleep.
Make it an effort to leave the technology behind for an hour or two when you need to relieve stress. Either leave it at home or leave it in your car, and try to put the stress of work behind you as you enjoy spending time among trees, birds, water, sand, or whatever natural surroundings you find yourself in. If you have children, have them leave their electronics for a little while. You will probably get some pushback and complaints, which might raise your stress level temporarily, but chances are good that they will appreciate it once they accept their screen-free time is not up for negotiation.
Try Natural Remedies to Relieve Stress, Depression, and Anxiety
Walking around and being out in the woods or the mountains is not the only way that you can use nature to relieve stress. There are many natural remedies for stress, depression, and anxiety that can be used. If you are being treated for depression or anxiety or if you are on any medication, be sure to talk to your mental health professional before taking any supplements, because they can have side effects and interactions.
Some vitamin deficiencies can cause an increase in your anxiety or stress levels. For example, if you are deficient in vitamin D, it can cause a host of issues. You could take vitamin D-3 supplements, but a better way of getting vitamin D is to spend some time in the sun, preferably in the early morning or later afternoon hours, since that is when you are less likely to get sunburn. You can also boost your consumption of vitamin D by drinking milk and eating fatty fish, like salmon and tuna.
Eating well overall can boost not only your physical health, but also your mental health. Stick to the foods that you would find in nature:
- lean meats and other protein sources
- legumes (nuts and beans)
- plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
Avoiding heavily processed foods not only makes your diet more natural, but can also make you feel better in many different ways.
Reducing stress is something that most of us struggle with at times and getting into nature is a great way to relax, unwind, and enjoy some peace and quiet. Look for ways that you can get out on a regular basis and see if it helps your overall mood, stress levels, and physical and mental health.