5 Ways Nature Will Help Relieve Your Stress

Let the great outdoors calm your nerves.

By: Chema Domenech + Save to a List

My first panic attack came out of nowhere; I was taking my jacket off and boom, I was certain I was about to have a stroke or heart attack. At the time I was 26, in good shape, and no history of cardiovascular problems in my family. Although my job could be stressful, it was pretty chill for the most part. I don’t know what happened but something inside me just snapped.

Now I am not going to sit here and tell you that getting out into nature is the cure-all. I had a lot of help. My family and friends were instrumental and I had medical support. But somehow things were not getting better; I was scared that if I left my house I would have a breakdown.

It wasn't until I made a commitment to get outside and stay outside that my panic attacks disappeared and my anxiety became almost nonexistent. Being cooped up inside all day and dealing with daily stresses create anxiety for everyone, even if it doesn't consume you like mine did. Don't let it get to that point...here are 5 ways nature will help your anxiety!

1. Nature has meditative powers.

Researchers in Japan found a significant decrease in the activity of the prefrontal cortex area of the brain when spending time in nature. This part of the brain is always planning and is responsible for decision-making and problem solving. Similar effects have been observed in Tibetan monks and these guys know a thing or two about meditation and relaxation.

5 Tips For The Ultimate Outdoor Sleep | Photo: Fudo Jahic

2. You’ll sleep better.

Anxiety and panic attacks are often made worse by a lack of restful sleep. One of the first things my doctor did after my anxiety diagnosis was ensure that I was getting deep regular sleep. Studies have found that exposure to natural sunlight is helpful in regulating your sleep cycle. This was a huge help!

3. Cortisol levels will decrease.

Cortisol is the hormone responsible for our fight or flight response. You better believe that I want that rush of cortisol if I am in a fight or flight situation. However, consistent elevated levels of cortisol can lead to anxiety or panic attacks. Scientists in Japan discovered a 12% decrease in cortisol levels for people that got outside for a walk in the forest.

5 Reasons Why You Should Unplug On Your Next Adventure | Photo: Austin Trigg

4. It gives you a break from technology.

Be honest here. How often do you check your phone? Instagram? Twitter? Facebook? Technology is great, but too much of it can have negative effects. A University of Michigan study found that the more time people spent on Facebook the worse they felt. Ditch your phone; those emails and status updates will be there when you return from your outdoor adventure.

5. It makes you happier.

There are a lot of reasons why nature makes you happier, but on the most basic level, the theory goes something like this: we like things that are inherently good for our survival, which is why trees that provide shade, that stream of water that satisfies our thirst, and other natural elements all lift our spirits.

One of my friends suffering from anxiety attacks once told me what her therapist said: "remember what's on your face. It's hard to have an anxiety attack when you have a smile on your face." So get outside and slap a smile on your face and kick your anxiety to the curb.

Cover photo: Kristin Bor

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