Cape Fear Botanical Garden

Can Nature Help you Deal with the Stress of the Pandemic?

This is a difficult time for many of us, but nature can be a source of healing and a place to relax away from the stress of the rest of the world. Here are 10 scientifically documented ways that nature helps us manage stress, relax and feel better.

1.Get Some Vitamin D

Your body needs sunlight to properly synthesize vitamin D from the cholesterol in your skin. That extra vitamin D you produce helps your body both physically and mentally, to promote bone and dental health, improve your mood, lower your blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes.

2. Normalize Your Sleep With Sunshine

Sunshine helps you regulate your sleep by helping your brain’s pineal gland figure out when to produce melatonin. Producing the right amount of melatonin at the right time can help you fall asleep more quickly and wake feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

3. Get Out of Your Head (or in other words – reduce rumination)

Our own problems can shrink next to an infinite sky or an ocean that stretches past the horizon. Specifically studies have shown that spending time in nature reduces rumination which is a pattern of negative thoughts focused on one’s self. Rumination in turn is a contributing risk factor in depression.

4. Fresh Air Lowers your Blood Pressure and Helps you feel Energized

There’s a reason fresh air makes you feel better. The increased oxygen helps reduce blood pressure, making us feel more energized, and allowing us to concentrate more easily. 

5.Bacteria in the Soil Boost your Serotonin Levels

Mycobacterium vaccae, a common bacteria found in soil, has been found to mimic the effects of serotonin boosting drugs like Prozac. Getting dirty can be a literally antidepressant. 

6.Physical Activity Boosts your Endorphins

Taking a walk or a jog outside will help you stay physically active! When you exercise, you don’t just improve your physical health, your body also releases chemical endorphins which trigger a positive feeling similar to that of morphine.

7.Nature Reduces your Levels of the Stress-Hormone Cortisol

Time spent in nature has been shown to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This reduced stress can help with hypertension and boost your immune system. In fact, some studies suggest that just looking at natural landscapes in pictures causes people to report lower levels of stress. 

8. Relieves Attention Fatigue

Over time, our phones, computers, and TV can start to cause us attention fatigue. Electronics focus a high level of attention in on thing and promote multitasking of multiple high focus activities. When we’re in nature there’s a lot to look at, but nothing as attention demanding as our electronics. The experience of many low-attention demanding stimuli helps reduce mental fatigue and promote better concentration when we return indoors.

9.Inspires a Sense of Awe

Nature inspires feelings of awe and wonder in the face of amazing beauty, majestic natural landscapes, and the vastness of the world. While the emotion of awe is understudied, many reports suggest that this sense of wonder can help give us hope and an appreciation for life. 

10. Helps with Mild-Moderate Depression, Anxiety, and ADHD symptoms. 

Time in nature has been shown to reduce the symptoms of mild to moderate depression, anxiety, and ADHD. While nature can’t replace seeing a mental health professional, time in nature can definitely help with mild symptoms and periods of feeling down. The effects are so significant that some doctors are actually prescribing time in nature and a national program called Park Rx America is helping to coordinate the use of nature in mental health therapy.