You have probably experienced this phenomenon before, where you have found yourself pleasantly distracted by a beautiful natural scene. If you are looking for simple ways to help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, enjoy a sunset, gaze at the ocean or mountains, sit in a park, escape to the countryside or a nature retreat, or spend a few minutes staring out the window.
A growing body of research points to the beneficial effects that exposure to the natural world has on health, reducing stress, and promoting healing. Exposure to nature makes you feel better by reducing anger, fear, and stress while increasing pleasant feelings. Research in a growing scientific field called ecotherapy has shown a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression. You might be wondering how much time with nature is enough. To get the positive effects of mental and physical restoration from nature, Dr. Jason Strauss, a psychiatrist at Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance, recommends “anything from 20 to 30 minutes, three days a week.” Moreover, he indicates that “the point is to make your interactions a part of your normal lifestyle.” while Mathew White of the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter found that people who spent two hours a week in green spaces — local parks or other natural environments, either all at once or spaced over several visits — were substantially more likely to report good health and psychological well-being than those who don’t.”
Do not worry if you cannot make it outside. You can still enjoy similar effects by listening to nature sounds. Calming nature sounds can lower blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which calms the fight-or-flight response of the body. Even looking out the window or looking at scenic paintings, pictures of natural settings, your favorite spot, or a place you want to visit can help.
“Nature can have a powerful effect on our mental state,” says Dr. Strauss, “and there are many ways to tap into it.”