Stressed? Take a 20-minute nature pill

Taking at least twenty minutes out of your day to stroll or sit in a place that makes you feel in contact with nature will significantly lower your stress hormone levels. That’s the finding of a study that has established for the first time the most effective dose of an urban nature experience. Healthcare practitioners can use this discovery, published in Frontiers in Psychology, to prescribe ‘nature-pills’ in the knowledge that they have a real measurable effect.

“We know that spending time in nature reduces stress, but until now it was unclear how much is enough, how often to do it, or even what kind of nature experience will benefit us,” says Dr. MaryCarol Hunter, an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan and lead author of this research. “Our study shows that for the greatest payoff, in terms of efficiently lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol, you should spend 20 to 30 minutes sitting or walking in a place that provides you with a sense of nature.”  more

Did You Play Outside A Lot As A Kid? Turns Out, It Might’ve Improved Your Mental Health

A little bit of green can go a long way. Past research has shown that greenery and nature can do wonders for your mood or even boost your immunity, but a new study published in PNAS just took these mental benefits to the next level.

By examining satellite images of the green spaces surrounding the childhood homes of almost a million people, researchers found that children who grew up around lots of green space had a 55 percent reduction in risk of developing mental disorders in adulthood. The study also took into account other factors like socio-economic status and genetics—and greenery still reigned supreme.

To dive even further into their findings, researchers say that timing does actually matter for getting your green space in. These mind-boosting benefits are most potent up to the age of 10, making our childhood years the best time to root ourselves in nature.  more

Why “Getting Away” in Nature Is Good for Your Mental Health

We already know eating your greens is vital for good health, but immersing yourself in green space might be just as important. Whether it’s a remote mountaintop or an urban oasis, green space is emerging as a powerful force for good mental health. Exposure to green space can help alleviate depressionADHDAlzheimer’s, and more. One particularly astounding study found that green space is nothing less than a superhero: it actually fights crime.

Here’s how that worked: 541 vacant lots in Philadelphia were randomly assigned to one of three conditions. In the first, they were “cleaned and greened,” meaning trash was removed, grass and trees were planted, and the improvements were maintained over time. In the second, lots were cleaned on a regular basis, but no greenery was planted. And in the third, the lots were left untouched. Then, the research team used police reports to track crime in the area. Near the cleaned and greened lots, crime decreased by 13%, including a decrease in gun violence almost 30%—that’s a number that should grab any civic leader by the lapels.

Why is green space so powerful? Why does it make us feel refreshed and relaxed? And how on earth does it have the power to reduce crime and violence? This week, we’ll look at a few possibilities, plus think about how to apply the answer to our lives. Okay, let’s figure this out:  more