Being around nature for at least 20 minutes a day can do wonders to one's mental health, a new study has found.
According to scientists, sitting or strolling in a park can significantly lower the level of a person's stress hormones. They hope that the study can encourage healthcare practitioners to prescribe "nature pills" for stress relief.
Daily Dose Of Nature
The study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology discussed an experiment involving 36 people, living in the city, who spent at 10 minutes or more for at least three times a week around nature. The participants did this over the course of two months.
The participants were given the freedom to choose when and where they want to take a "nature pill" and for how long. By allowing personal flexibility in the experiment, the researchers were able to identify the optimal duration of a "nature pill."
To measure the effect of the "nature pill" to the participants, the scientists took saliva samples once every two weeks to measure cortisol levels.
They found that spending 20 minutes in a place where the participants felt connected to nature, such as the local park or a forested mountainside, significantly reduced cortisol levels. Those who spent up to 30 minutes outside saw a greater drop in stress hormones.
After 30 minutes, however, the benefits of the "nature pill" become less significant.
Participants were also barred from engaging in stimulating activities such as exercising, reading, or using electronic devices such as smartphones while they are out to de-stress.
Take A Nature Pill A Day To Keep Stress At Bay
Several studies have found evidence that being around nature is an effective way to de-stress. However, this is the first time that a study has identified how much time one needs to spend outside to reap the benefits of being outside.
According to the researchers, the goal of the study is to provide enough evidence and convince healthcare practitioners to include "nature pill" as a part of treatment.
"It provides the first estimates of how nature experiences impact stress levels in the context of normal daily life," stated MaryCarol Hunter, an associate professor at the University of Michigan and the lead author of the study. "It breaks new ground by addressing some of the complexities of measuring an effective nature dose."