Shared by Dr. Bryan Stephens
Stop and smell the roses
Ever felt like you were wearing your shoulders as earrings and needed a break from the daily grind? These breaks are very important as they give us a chance to lower our stress and give us the opportunity to appreciate what is right in front of us. How you ask? Sometimes these breaks are more physical in nature and could range from a walk, swim, workout, sport, etc. While exercise goes hand in hand with de-stressing, I want to focus on a different aspect of breaks when we get outside.
Most patients don’t realize the benefits we get just from being outside in nature. Yes, we can get vitamin D from converting the sun’s UV rays, but we can lower our stress levels by getting outside too. Hartig et al. noted the benefits due to 2 major mechanisms. First, when we get outside, we escape the environment that often causes the stressors. Many stresses come from being inside working, meeting deadlines, attending meetings, and filling calendars. As we get outside, we put physical distance from the stressors and the associations we place with them. The second mechanism involves appreciation of our surroundings. Gratitude is a powerful ally against stress! They have 2 theories on how these mechanisms work, but regardless of the reason why, multiple studies show the “reliable evidence of reductions in self-reported anger, fatigue, anxiety, and sadness and an increase in feelings of energy.”
Seeing as stress is such a contributor to our major killers (heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cancer), anything we can do to lower our chronic stress is literally lifesaving. Regardless of whether you prefer focusing on the flowers around us, appreciating the wind in the leaves, listening to the wild-life, or being at peace with the quiet, I charge you to get outside this week and find a way to enjoy the break!
Hartig T. et al. (2011) Health Benefits of Nature Experience: Psychological, Social and Cultural Processes. In: Nilsson K. et al. (eds) Forests, Trees and Human Health. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-90-481-9806-1_5