Whether you love the great outdoors or not, nature is a proven remedy for stress. How exactly do fresh air and lovely landscapes achieve this feat?
A Fact with Wow Factor
Spending as little as ten minutes in a natural setting improves mood and decreases stress. [Source]
Stress Less Tip
Sunlight takes part of the credit for nature's dramatic effect on stress. Bathing in the sun's rays prompts your skin to make serotonin, the relaxation hormone. Increased serotonin ramps up melatonin production. Melatonin is then released at the perfect time to induce sleep. A good night's sleep helps you recover from and manage stress better.
Serotonin would go to waste in the absence of mobility, though. This feel-good chemical needs oxygen to carry it throughout your body via blood vessels. Breathing fresh air increases your oxygen levels. Plus, it improves your focus and aids in muscle and other tissue repairs.
As a side note, fresh air kills bacteria and viruses. Say, "Goodbye," to annoying colds, which both arise from and contribute to stress.
Merely simulating the great outdoors sets off an instinctual relaxation response. No need to move to a scenic location to take advantage of nature's calming effect. Placing houseplants in your vicinity creates the same effect. Looking at nature pictures or videos reduces stress as well. What a perfect solution for places like the American Midwest in January! When the wind chill is 30 degrees below zero, nobody wants to step outside.
The centuries-old practice of grounding involves physical contact with the earth to restore energy and focus. As studies on grounding gain momentum, the number of confirmed positive effects grows.
Over the years, grounding techniques have deviated from tradition. The modern definition of grounding emphasizes focusing on the present moment to temper negative thoughts and strong emotions. Ideally, you want to put them to rest before they spiral out of control. Destructive thoughts and emotions that trigger anxiety and stress respond well to grounding techniques such as:
Nature offers an idyllic setting, inspiration, and resources to practice mindfulness exercises like these. For example, intentional awareness of the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations surrounding you counts as mindful sensory grounding. As a bonus, mindfulness contributes to stress resilience.
To enhance your sensitivity to nature's intricacies, take cues from the researchers at the University of Derby in England. They offer several unique ways to connect with nature in the article, "Mindfulness and Nature." They even include immersive visualizations for when you can't access nature directly.
Take a virtual walk through the four seasons in the video below with a blend of scenery and relaxing music.
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