Home décor stores sport pictures of waterfalls, a lush green forest or colourful flowers adoring the walls of the shop. Why don’t they fill the spaces with pictures of classy bungalows or laughing adults? Believe me, nature wins the hearts and minds of people belonging to any generation and any era. Our cities were flooded with independent houses decades back and most of them had a green space outside where we used to grow our favourite fruits, vegetables and flowers. There was no need to wander out in search of greenery but now, most of them have become concrete jungles where we yearn to see a pretty little rose pecking out of a house or even miss out on tiny little bushes lining out footpaths. Some of us can attain calm by staring at the free-flowing waters of the river while some others are enthralled by the unending ocean whose origin and end points remain an unknown secret.
Its well-known that spending some time with nature relieves stress and anxiety levels while helping to improve mood, happiness and peace of mind. The one point that has remained a mystery until now is ‘how much’ is good enough? Its possible for some to spend the entire day in love with nature but for some others hardly spending 10-15 minutes is a chore as their work schedules and activities for the day remain intact taunting them through the entire time spent bonding over trees and mountains! A new study published in a well-known journal helps us with accurate answers to our time-related questions on nature.
The participants were asked to take a nature pill for around 10 minutes at least thrice a week over the 8-week study period on nature’s effect on individuals. Researchers measured cortisol levels using saliva samples taken from each of the participants before and after the nature pill once every two weeks. Cortisol is a stress hormone that’s evoked during fight-or-flight situations and for more details regarding the optimal level of this hormone in the body please visit www.firsteatright.com. The participants were free to choose their preferred time of day, duration and favourite place (any place that gave them the satisfaction of being out surrounded by nature) with a few guidelines that minimized any stress-triggering factors. The guidelines included refraining from aerobic exercise, avoiding using the social media, internet, phone calls, conversations and reading, and taking the nature pill in the daytime. Results showed that taking only a 20-minute nature experience helped in lowering cortisol levels but taking more time around 20-30 minutes to engage with nature helped in further reduction of cortisol levels. Anything beyond 30 minutes did seem advantageous to relieve stress but the results were evident only at a slower pace. So, its time now that physicians can prescribe a nature pill in their prescription for reducing stress levels. Further studies on assessing gender, age and cultural influences can help in customizing nature pills that suits individuals’ needs.
Humans have evolved with nature and thought we might order home delivery of foods, watch a movie sitting inside and shop online for dresses our brains are still the same and they remain deeply connected with nature. Failing to vitalize this connection might lead to debilitating side effects in the future. Next time when you have a problem that you can’t get your mind out of it, feeling angry, demotivated, fatigued or disconnected take a walk outside and reignite your lost passion with nature as she is always ready to welcome you with open hands, a warm smile and a big hug!
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.