Go Green and Decrease Stress!

Picture of green agave plants.

A New Twist on a Green Revolution

Going green, so to speak, is one way of decreasing your stress. I am not talking about the green revolution in which you reuse and recycle, but rather something that is starting to get more recognition in city planning across the United States. Namely having ready access to green spaces as a means to help increase social cohesion and decrease overall stress levels in populations.

A recent article Walking Green: Developing an Evidence Base for Nature Prescriptions in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health caught my attention. As a provider of mental health services I have often considered that access to nature would likely improve mental health, but here is one study that confirms just that.

Hopefully we can all appreciate how stress relieving it can be to spend time in nature. What has been a hunch of those providing care is now being born out scientifically. If you are a person who has access to nature (i.e. trees, wild animals, grasses, water expanses, etc) bravo. One way to help decrease your stress is to get out and take a walk in the great outdoors.

Location, Location, Location

One aspect the article mentioned is having tested two locations or conditions. Walking along either a busy street OR walking in a forest preserve. They were able to show over the course of the study that those who walked in the forest had lower perceived stress levels. So while walking in general helps lower stress levels as discussed in previous posts (here and here) we now finding that the location of the walk can amplify the effect.

Make it Meaningful

So what does this mean for the average person like you and me? Well, to my mind this represents a very low cost means of accessing stress reduction. Finding a place to walk in nature near you could be the biggest contribution you can make to your overall stress in 2020. If you live in a large city this may be more challenging. Many larger cities have started incorporating green spaces within walking or commuting distance.

If you can take the time to get to a green space once a week or more to take a walk (some studies suggest that you can even sit and just be in the green space) for 30-50 minutes, you will go a long way to helping reduce your stress. As we’ve discussed previously intention makes the meaning. Setting aside/planning a time when you will spend time in nature will make it more likely to happen.

What Constitutes a Green Space?

ANY location of relatively unspoiled nature. It can be a small park at the end of the block or a large forest preserve. It can be a location with a large expanse of water with unobstructed view. A beach can be a green space. A mountain, a large field of grass with a path, a fitness path.

Whatever is available near you. I find it much easier to go green and decrease my stress when access is relatively close. There are several in my community less than a 20 minute drive from my home.

Banyan tree in a city park in Sicily. Opportunity for citizens to take a break with nature and decrease stress.

Find It and Use It

Once you find your local green space be sure to use it. Also by linking other stress reducing habits you’ve built you can increase your overall effect. For example, you could make it a part of your DIY stress kit as discussed in a previous post. You may even decide to make it a part of “unplugging” from technology if only for the time you are spending in nature. I once walked several sections of the Appalachian Trail and found no need for music or distraction. Nature had me completely enveloped. And while not every aspect of that adventure was stress free (let’s just say there were tears) I did find that I slept very well while out in nature. Since striking out into the back country is not everyone’s idea of “stress relieving” take a moment to consider simply going to a local park and sitting or walking for 30-50 minutes. You may find that your stress levels go way down.

Give it a try making an effort to go green and decrease stress may work so well you can relinquish your gym membership. Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Try it out and let me know how it works for you.

Thanks for dropping by The Stress Nest.

I hope your 2020 is filled with much more fun and much less stress.

Happy New Year!

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