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Shoo Stress Away With Nature

Stressed? Studies show that experiencing nature can reduce stress levels. Relax with nature in a matter of minutes and improve your well-being!

Once a year the doctor asks me, “on a scale of 1-10, on average, what is your stress level?” Every year, a huge smile spreads across my face as I answer, “9.” My smile is one of guilt, of knowing that I’m doing something wrong, or at least knowing that I’m not doing something all the way right. I work hard, I exercise, I read books that I love, I surround myself with my family and friends, I hold my cat every day, and I laugh all the time. So what’s with the heavy stress? This year, when my doctor asks me that daunting stress question, I’ll answer with a guiltless smile and say, “6.” Want to know how I dropped down three levels of stress? Because of dirt.

Well, in correct terms, because of soil. Because of trees, plants, birds, frogs, and water. Yup, because of nature. Some people aren’t so ready to announce their love for nature, fearing that they’ll be called a Hippie, a tree hugger, or some other stereotype assigned nickname. I’d like to think that most people don’t need to be reminded that humans used to (and in some places still do) live outdoors and survive solely on raw natural resources; that our current well-being is completely dependent on environmental health, water and air quality being two obvious necessities. In 2007, it was reported that around 2.5 billion people living in developing countries are forced to rely on biomass—fuel wood, charcoal and animal dung—to satisfy their energy needs for cooking. This statistic includes over 80 percent of sub-Saharan Africa and over half of the populations of India and China. Here, you’re called a “granola head” for eating local and refusing bottled water.

We shouldn’t feel cheesy about our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual connections with nature; we should embrace it and spread the joy. I fell in love with Mother Nature six years ago, and we have a strong relationship (although she gives me a lot more than I give her…I’m working on that). So why has it only been this past year that I can proudly say that I have reduced my stress levels by simply going outside? As much as I knew the health benefits of being out in nature, I got caught up in the busy that is my life.  Even a 10 minute break outdoors can do wonders. A study published in 1989 from Texas A & M in 1989 suggested that even films of nature scenery were stress reducing.  In 2008, a University of Washington study showed that nothing works as well as the real deal. Looking at a nature scene on a TV screen did not decrease heightened stress levels of study participants, whereas looking at the real nature scene did.  So please, watch the wonders on the Discovery Channel, but be sure to experience your neighborhood forests first-hand, as well.

In a matter of minutes, I can recover from nearing an anxiety attack by going outside and breathing in nature. My awe over its beauty, gratitude for its resources and services, and fascination with its complexity are enough to help me rise above stress and simply be. You don’t have to meditate if it’s not your thing; try sitting, lying, or relaxing in a yoga child’s pose/Balasana on the ground. I like child’s pose because it brings my heart and mind to the earth. Be barefoot and make direct contact with soil, water, and vegetation.  And, one of the most important things, get kids out in nature. Raining? Of course it is, but you and your little ones are tough! 

 

Ready for some tips and resources?


 

 

 

  • Let's enjoy and protect Redmond's natural areas. Redmond Wild, which always welcomes new volunteers, strives to create and conserve local wildlife friendly spaces, such as backyards, schoolyards, and community centers. Green Redmond Partnership is working hard to keep our urban forests healthy, and hosts fun habitat restoration volunteer events!  

 

 

We want tips from you!


What do you do to reduce stress?  How do you spend your time outdoors?  Where are your favorite places to enjoy nature? 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Greg Johnston (Editor) September 13, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Great post Rianne, getting good and dirty is healthy! I don't want to just look at nature, I want to roll in it, touch it, smell it, hike it, ride it (on bike and snowboard), fish it, eat it (fish, berries, and 'shrooms) and cherish it!
Kathy Dennis September 13, 2012 at 11:45 PM
Yes, great blog post! Hanging out in my garden, watching a spider spin its web (basically what some people would call wasting time), walking my dog in the woods are all stress-relievers.
Sandee Palmquist September 15, 2012 at 03:25 AM
When I babysit my almost two year o,d grand daughter we spend most of our time outside either going for walks or gardening or just wandering in a nearby nature area. I hope I am building a lifelong love of nature in her.
Margaret Santjer September 18, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Totally agree -- looking for shapes in the clouds with a toddler, exploring under rocks for bugs and just listening to the birds with your eyes closed for a minute can all get you off that crazy stress treadmill and center you.
Jeff BeCraft September 24, 2012 at 07:08 PM
We have been inspired to add to our yard more plants and flowers and get our hands and knees dirty, it has been allot of fun.We are outside and involved with our home more.Welcoming more wildlife into our yard and our lives.
Rianne BeCraft September 24, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Thank you all for reading and for your comments! -Greg, I'm glad that you roll in, touch, and smell nature, keep up the great work! -Kathy, I don't think I'll ever get over the magic of a spider spinning its web! -Sandee, I'm sure your grandaughter will always be thankful for her outdoor moments with you. -Margaret, it seems like you know all the best things to do with kids outside; counting different bird calls is great way to focus on a beautiful thing. -Jeff (Dad), you have certainly turned your backyard into a bird and butterfuly sanctuary, and I am so proud of you for that!
Greg Johnston (Editor) September 24, 2012 at 09:19 PM
You've taught your father well Rianne! ;)

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