Why City Dwellers Need a Stress-busting Dose of Nature

Reconnecting with nature may be just what the doctor ordered.

Why City Dwellers Need a Stress-busting Dose of Nature

The 1988 movie The Great Outdoors is a slapstick tale about a series of disasters that befall a family getaway planned by Chet (John Candy) and his brood at a bucolic lake resort in rural Wisconsin. Tranquility is shattered when in-laws Roman (Dan Akyroyd) and Kate (Annette Benning) and their kids arrive uninvited. Although Gene Siskel said in his review, "the movie stinks—all the way through," it did get some things right! Stressed-out city-dwellers do need to reconnect with nature and it needs to be done in peace and quiet.

Researchers from the University of Michigan published a study of 36 city-dwellers who were prescribed a “Nature Pill,” and had their levels of the stress hormone cortisol measured before and after they took the stress-busting Rx.

Reporting results in Frontiers in Psychology, the scientists said that when participants put themselves in an environment where they interacted with nature for 20 minutes at least three times a week, their stress-hormone levels dropped significantly. Stretch that to 30 minutes? Cortisol levels decreased the most. Adding more time didn’t cause as big of a drop.

So talk to your doc about getting a prescription for this free-and-easy way to help manage hypertension, headaches, inflammation, insomnia and moodiness. Or prescribe it for yourself! Either way, you choose the location, time and duration. But remember to take the “Nature Pill” in daylight; don’t do any aerobic exercise (just a gentle stroll); don’t use social media, your phone or Internet; and don’t do anything that interrupts your solitude.

Medically reviewed in August 2019.

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