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Take the ‘Nature Pill’
By Jerry Brownstein
More and more doctors are prescribing nature experiences for the health benefits that come from reduced stress. The power of this ‘nature pill’ is well proven, and it can be a low-cost, low-risk way to curb the negative health effects of urbanisation and indoor lifestyles. New research is revealing just how much time we actually need to spend in nature to get the benefits. Researchers from the University of Michigan (US) wanted to identify the most effective dose of nature that was practical within the context of normal daily life. They gave people who lived in busy cities nature experiences ranging from ten to thirty minutes three times per week. The levels of the stress hormone cortisol were measured before and after the par-ticipants took a “nature pill”.
The data showed that a 20 minute nature experience was enough to significantly reduce cortisol levels. The effect was even greater between 20 to 30 minutes, after which benefits continued to accrue but at a slower rate. That fits with the findings of another recent study which found that spending at least 20 minutes in an urban park makes people feel significantly happier. So the next time you are feeling stressed... take the nature pill.