“Study nature. Love nature. Stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” — Frank Lloyd Wright
Let’s skip the small talk: the holidays are stressful. Introducing added travel, expenses, social engagements and family interactions to an already busy schedule can not only be daunting, but can cause substantial levels of anxiety. But there is good news: now that we’ve faced the hard, bitter truth, we can relieve ourselves of it. The first step in reducing stress is self-awareness and confronting the ugly thing. Sometimes when we try to hold it together on the outside we actually feel like our body is burning on the inside. But, you know what guys, it’s ok to say, “dang, I am really stressed out right now.” There is no shame in that. And now we can move on by partaking in activities that reduce stress… like being in nature!
Exposure to nature has been proven to decrease stress and increase health and mental contentment. In an article published by The Atlantic, “A group of researchers from Stanford University thought the nature effect might have something to do with reducing rumination”, or, as they describe it, “a maladaptive pattern of self-referential thought that is associated with heightened risk for depression and other mental illnesses.” Rumination is our tendency to focus — heavily — on sadness and what’s causing it. According to a test where 38 mentally stable city dwellers were asked to spend 90 minutes either hiking in nature or strolling a city street, it was found that “natural environments are more restorative, the authors write, and thus confer greater psychological benefits.”
In another study, published in National Geographic, “Japanese researchers led by Yoshifumi Miyazaki at Chiba University sent 84 subjects to stroll in seven different forests, while the same number of volunteers walked around city centers. The forest walkers hit a relaxation jackpot: overall they showed a 16 percent decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, a 2 percent drop in blood pressure, and a 4 percent drop in heart rate. Miyazaki believes our bodies relax in pleasant, natural surroundings because they evolved there. Our senses are adapted to interpret information about plants and streams, he says, not traffic and high-rises.”
Next time you feel the holiday stresses coming on, you know what to do. Step outside, take fresh air deep into your lungs, and relax into the nature around you. Take a hike, stare into a lake, or feel the plants between your fingers to beat the mental and physical hustle and bustle of the holidays.
+ How do you unwind from the stressful triggers of the Holidays?
Follow Joanna on Instagram.