A stress-free picture if ever I saw one!
These walking friends of mine are relaxing on the Walls of Jerusalem in Tasmania. But you don’t have to backpack your way into remote wilderness areas like this to be de-stressed by nature. A few moments in your own garden, a public park or simply contemplating the office plants can have beneficial effects of blood pressure, stress hormone levels, central nervous system function and mood.
I talked about the de-stressing power of nature in my post on bush bathing, our biased brain and office plants. In the first of these I made the point that it takes only a few minutes of exposure to a natural scene or even a picture of one for the physical and mental symptoms of stress to decrease and be replaced by the relaxation response.
I am returning to the topic of nature and stress simply to highlight the fact that ameliorating stress is one of the important pathways by which nature affects wellness. More importantly, I also want to underscore the value of connecting with nature as a way of dealing with the stress and strain of daily life.
But rather than labouring the point with more theory, I want to suggest a way you can discover the calming effect of nature first-hand and indeed make a habit of using nature to de-stress.
If you have access to Claim Your Wildness, you will find the exercise I have in mind described in last chapter. If not, this is an outline of what to do.
- Choose ways of spending at least 30 minutes connecting with nature at home, work or play. This is easier than you might think. Go to the David Suzuki Foundation’s website, http://30×30.davidsuzuki.org, and click on the “What you can do” link for ideas. If you are not yet ready to attempt the challenge of 30 minutes, it is OK to set a smaller target and perhaps build up.
- Measure your stress symptoms before you start using one of the questionnaires available on the Internet, for example http://stress.about.com/library/symptoms/bl_stress_symptom_quiz.htm and http://www.stresswinner.com/nhnpdfs/Stress%20Symptom%20-%20Quiz.pdf
- Measure your symptoms again after the 30 days. But bear in mind that the extent of your contacts with nature will be just one of the factors likely to influence your stress levels, so be realistic as well as optimistic in your expectations. Remain alert also to other benefits you are likely to be receiving, enjoyment, the beauty buzz and tranquillity, for example.
If you do this exercise, please consider using the comment box to let me and others know how you got on.