Papers scattered all over my desk. The to-do list kept growing. Phone calls, and emails, and social media distractions pinged and beeped. My chest tightened. I was overwhelmed and stressed. But then I quickly got out of it.
I went for a walk. (I love to walk) And not just any walk to any place. I went for a walk in nature.
The science of nature and stress reduction
Many new research studies show that nature is our secret weapon for lowering blood pressure and stress hormone levels and improving brain function.
- Our memory and attention are better after walking through an arboretum than after walking through a busy street. Simply looking at pictures is better for your brain function than walking through a busy street. (source)
- We more quickly recover from a stressful task after looking at pictures of nature (source)
- We can significantly lower blood pressure and stress levels by walking in a “green” environment for just eight weeks (source)
- Living closer to nature can lower our stress hormone levels (source)
- Listening to nature can help us recover from a stressful task faster (source)
So there is a reason those meditation and relaxation recordings play rolling waves, birds chirping, and streams gurgling!
How to find nature in a city
There is good news for urbanites. While real, live nature is the best medicine, there are some readily available alternatives.
- Look at pictures of nature.
- Find something outside that’s growing. Boulevards with vegetation, planter containers, or flower pots will do.
- Listen to sounds of nature. Grab a nature sounds disc, pop it in, and imagine yourself in that place.
- Choose less busy streets for your walks.
- Go for a walk in a park.
So the next time you’re feeling stressed, do what you can to grab a little piece of nature for yourself. As Soren Kierkegaard said, “Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day, I walk myself into a state of well-being & walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.”