Nature as a Stress Reliever

What is it about getting out into nature that relieves stress? Whether it’s a hike on a forest trail, canoeing on a remote river, or just sitting on the beach watching the sun set, being in the natural world has a calming effect. I don’t know why, maybe it’s just because it helps to put things into perspective, or maybe helps to slow down our monkey mind.

There is someone that is finding the answer to that question. Although most of us know intuitively that nature is a stress reliever Dr. Tierney Thys, a marine biologist, is looking into the brain science behind it. Neurobiophilia is a term she coined and spoke about at the TED Conference in Vancouver in March of this year. Neurobiophilia is the study of how nature engages brain function. By using tools such as fMRI and EEG, researchers can see the effect nature has on the brain. Dr. Thys reports that being in nature increases concentration, increases focus and reduces stress and anxiety. Further, it even sparks creativity. Wow, that’s huge. If nature was a drug it would be the best mix of Provigil, Adderall and Ativan without negative side effects! And nature is free! (To learn more about Tierney Thys, listen to the NPR TED Radio Hour Podcast from Aug 20th 2014)

I like to combine more than one resiliency factor to get an even greater stress relieving effect, so instead of running on a treadmill it’s even better to run on a trail. Meditation is great wherever you do it, but how much better would it be beside the ocean? Spending time with friends lowers stress, so how about hanging out with friends around a camp fire.

In our busy lives with most of us living in urban areas it’s harder to spend time in nature, but now more than ever we need to make the effort. And when we do, it pays off in so many ways.