We live busy and stressful lives, we divide our time between work and family, we often stay indoors and, as a consequence, we may feel stressed. What we can do in these cases to relieve stress? A very recent scientific study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology by an American team of Michigan University (Hunter et al, Apr 2019) seems to have found a solution. The scientists observed indeed that spending time in nature for 20 minutes a day helps lower the markers of stress. Well, true powerful nature pills prescribed to the participants to the study have played a role in improving their quality of life. Let’s try to better understand.
The scientists asked 36 people, all urban dwellers, to spend at least 10 minutes 3 times a week in contact with nature. There aren’t any time limitations in order to better adapt to the personal needs, the only requirements were: stay outside, in a place that, in the opinion of the participants, made them feel like they have interacted with nature, during daylight, no aerobic exercises and avoid the use of social media to minimize stress factors. During this nature “pill”, as it is called by the authors of the study, the persons could walk or sit. To measure the stress levels salivary samples have been analyzed to evaluate variations of cortisol and amylase. Cortisol is considered the primary stress hormone, prolonged high values of cortisol may impact learning and memory, may reduce bone density and weak the immune responses. Also amylase is a good marker of stress, both physical and mental. Well, scientists observed after just 20 minutes of nature exposure a 28% decrease of cortisol and 21% decrease of amylase. Between 20 and 30 minutes the cortisol and amylase dropped at their greatest rate, after that the values decrease but at a slower rate.