According to the Mental Health Foundation, 74 per cent of us have felt so stressed at some point over the past year that we’ve felt overwhelmed and unable to cope. Taking steps to reduce stress – linked to anxiety, depression, insomnia, heart disease, poor immunity and digestive problems – is, for me, one of the most important things we can do for our health.
My latest book, Feel Better In 5, takes the approach that your life can be
medicine. That it’s the little choices you make, day in day out, that add up to
a healthier you. And one of the very best medicines for stress, I believe, is
nature. We are hardwired to thrive in
nature, surrounded by greenery, bathed in sky and breathing in the healing
smells of plants and trees. Choosing to spend time outdoors, somewhere
green, is my prescription for stressed out bodies and minds.
life is exciting – but there’s no doubt it’s also draining. The typical modern high
street absolutely bristles with stress. Traffic, signs, adverts, shops,
commuters, smells, honking horns and wailing sirens – they’re all signals our
brain must work hard to process as it tries to keep us alert and safe. Research
has found that the more urban our environment, the worse our health becomes,
while time spent in green spaces has been proven to improve our mental and
physical health. Here’s how:
- It lowers stress levels, reducing levels of the stress hormone
have shown that being in nature can reduce
symptoms of depression.
time in nature can help increase
attention span and focus.
- It boosts your immune system. Yes, really: trees emit certain chemicals
that have been shown to have a positive effect on immunity.
- It increases energy levels and reduces
fatigue. If we exercise in
nature, rather than in a gym, we tend to exercise for longer. One study found
that people who exercise in the outdoors on a regular basis have higher levels
of a hormone called serotonin, which reduces tiredness and helps keep us in a
- It lowers disease risk. Data from over 290 million people across 20
countries found that spending time in nature, or living near to it, can help
reduce type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure, as well
as improve sleep.
how can you harness these incredible benefits? It’s easy. Simply spend five
minutes each day enjoying nature, whether through sight, sound or smell. The
wonderful thing about nature is that it’s not only free, it’s also readily
accessible to many of us. Try any of the following ‘health snacks’ to get your
- Go outside for five minutes. Stare at the trees, listen to the birds, watch the branches move in the wind. Really focus on your surroundings and luxuriate in the experience. If you have a garden or balcony it’s fantastic to do this first thing in the morning –natural daylight exposure at this time is great for your body clock, helping you feel more awake and, hours later, sleep better.
- Multitask in nature. This could mean having your morning cup of tea in the garden. Or sitting by an open window, listening to the birds singing or meditating on the branches blowing in the wind. If you need to make a phone call, do it outside. Read a book, sketch, write your diary, take some photos. Look for opportunities to get back to nature, whatever the task at hand.
- Get green fingered. If you have a garden, go outside to water and check in on your plants each day, taking the time to really notice how they have changed since the day before. No garden? Build a collection of houseplants and learn to care for them.
- Exercise outdoors. The mental health benefits of both exercise and being somewhere green are well proven, so guess what happens when you combine them? Research confirms all-round health, fitness, mood and self-esteem are improved while mental fatigue and stress are reduced.
- Listen up. If you can’t get outside, the sounds of nature can be of benefit. A quick search of YouTube, Spotify or any meditation app will find recordings of waves crashing or birds singing, so tune in to some aural therapy.
- Gaze on something green. Research has shown that even just looking at images of the natural world (compared to urban environments) is calming. Select a beautiful photo of the outdoors for your screensaver, and place a few botanical pictures around your desk at work.
- For more on how nature could be the cure to your stress, read my brand new book Feel Better In 5: Your Daily Plan To Feel Great For Life – you can order your own copy right now for only £8.49 from Amazon
content in this blog is not intended to constitute or be a substitute for
professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of
your doctor or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may
have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice
or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog or on this