According to a recent study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, the most efficient way to decrease stress levels is to spend time in nature for 20 minutes a day.
According to the study, 20-30 minutes a day is the healthiest time period for experiencing nature in an urban environment.
“We know that spending time in nature reduces stress. But until now it was unclear how much is enough. How often to do it, or even what kind of nature experience will benefit us. 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.”, says Dr. MaryCarol Hunter. She is an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan and lead author of the study.
In the research participated 44 people who had to spend time in nature for at least 10 minutes every day, three times a week. The scientists called the 8-week experiment the “nature pill”.
The participants in the study had to avoid talking, reading, and physical exercising during the experiment.
They couldn’t use their phones, go on social media, or surf the Internet either. But they were allowed to choose when and where “to take their nature pill” and how long to stay outside. The only condition they had to fulfill was to have true contact with nature.
“Building personal flexibility into the experiment, allowed us to identify the optimal duration of a nature pill. No matter when or where it is taken, and under the normal circumstances of modern life, with its unpredictability and hectic scheduling.”,
The participants also provided samples of their saliva taken before and after they’d had their “nature pill”. The saliva samples were sent to the researchers at the end of the first, third, and seventh week of the study.
By examining the participants’ saliva, the scientists discovered the following.
The cortisol levels decrease by 21 percent per hour if the participants spend between 20 to 30 minutes in nature. Then, the stress hormone is reduced by 12 percent per hour.
Dr. Hunter explained some details regarding the experiment:
“We accommodated day to day differences in a participant’s stress status. We did that by collecting four snapshots of cortisol change due to a natural pill” says Hunter. “It also allowed us to identify and account for the impact of the ongoing, natural drop in cortisol level as the day goes on. That made the estimate of effective duration more reliable.”
She also said:
“The data revealed that just a twenty-minute nature experience was enough to significantly reduce cortisol levels. But if you spent a little more time immersed in nature experience, 20 to 30 minutes sitting or walking, cortisol levels dropped at their greatest rate. After that, additional de-stressing benefits continue to add up but at a slower rate.”
Another interesting fact is that according to a previous study exercising outdoors is also a great stress reliever.
The study in question was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found. It revealed that riding outdoors could also improve our mood and reduce stress levels.