Working From Home? Researchers Suggest Taking a “Nature Pill” to Relieve Stress

By Tiffany Chaney

With more people working from home, it’s both easier than ever to enjoy nature but also difficult as most of your activities are based in the home. Humans are creatures of habit, and it’s important to cultivate “taking a nature pill” as a part of a healthy work-from-home lifestyle.

A 2019 study published in Frontiers in Psychology notes that just 20 minutes spent outside could significantly lower your stress hormones, according to a news release. Previously, it was known that nature did provide stress-relieving benefits. However, it was unknown how much time in nature is enough, how often one should do so, or even what kind of “nature experience” qualifies. The study found that small patches of nature found in urban areas do count.

Do What Connects You With Nature, Even in Urban Areas

Dr. Mary Carol Hunter, associate professor at the University of Michigan and lead author of the study, indicated in the news release that: “Our study shows that for the greatest payoff in terms of efficiently lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol, you should spend 20 to 30 minutes sitting or walking in a place that provides you with a sense of nature.”

That means doing anything that makes you feel connected with nature, whether that’s a short walk or feeling the sunlight on your porch with a cup of coffee. You might meditate near a fountain for ten minutes. Perhaps, connecting with nature means spending a little time in the garden or walking the block and enjoying your neighbors’ flowers if you don’t have a green thumb. If your job is now hybrid, consider biking to and from work if it’s under five miles away.

Spending time in nature is also a wonderful way to bond with family, whether that’s tossing a ball around or playing disc golf. Other ideas include nature treasure hunts, walking the dog around the neighborhood, or going rafting. 

What Are the Implications for Healthcare? 

Patients are regularly told to eat a well-balanced meal and maintain moderate levels of activity, but what about more specific health recommendations? Taking a nature pill could and should be the new normal.

Researchers indicated that they’ve nicknamed this stress-free strategy “nature pills.” They advised that healthcare practitioners could recommend taking a nature pill for ten minutes about three times a week, just as participants did in the study, to help people lower their stress levels.

Step out more and more each day, and you’ll find yourself connected more to yourself and more present in your day and work.

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