Stressed? Sleep Deprived? Book A 10-Minute Date With Nature

Being mindful doesn't have to include the word 'om.'

12/07/2016 12:10 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:57 PM AEST
Just 10 minutes relaxing outside is enough to significantly reduce blood pressure.

Let's pretend there was a magic potion for improved wellbeing. This potion would reduce your risk of diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease and even depression.

It's safe to assume everyone would want a drop, no?

Well here's the thing: a 10-minute stroll in nature does just that.

How? By sending you into the present moment (you know, that place where you're not constantly distracted by notifications).

We know what you're thinking: we've heard enough about mindfulness and meditation already. Enough!

But just hold up a sec...

Like your grandma said, a walk outside will clear your head.

"We often think about mindfulness as sitting down, closing your eyes and partaking in some kind of 'om' sounding activity," Andrew Fuller, clinical psychologist at Resilient Youth Australia told The Huffington Post Australia.

"Sure, that's useful for some people, but other people prefer a more physical way of doing this and being in nature is a powerful way of doing so," Fuller said.

This works by tapping into our Vagus nerve: the longest nerve in our body which plays a vital role in pouring calm into the brain during time of stress and threat.

There are two things that are common among all psychological problems; sleep disturbance and loss of presence.

"Eighty percent of fibres in the Vagus nerve are efferent, which means they move from the body back to the brain rather than the brain to the body," Fuller said.

This explains why light physical exercise, like taking a walk in nature is an antidote for stress.

"When you are moving around, your body is telling you to calm down. Your nervous system kicks and by focusing on the outside world without distraction there is a calming effect," Fuller said.

As you can imagine, sitting in front of a screen or bashing at your keyboard has the opposite effect.

Despite this, 51 percent of Australians visit social media sites as a way to manage stress according to new research from Planet Ark.

The report titled Adding Trees - A Prescription for Health, Happiness and Fulfilment also revealed 86 percent of Australians who have a close connection to nature are significantly more likely to consider themselves happy in life overall.

Nature: not just a pretty face

  • Time in nature reduces a person's chance of developing a range of diseases, including diabetes by 43 percent, cardiovascular disease and stroke by 37 percent and depression by 25 percent.
  • Nature induces positive feelings through a number of physiological mechanisms, including activating the brain's dopamine reward system.
  • Students who take part in outdoor learning programs perform better in reading, writing, maths and science, with 77 percent of teachers reporting student improvement in standardised tests.
  • A strong connection to nature makes people more likely to feel passionate about relationships with their friends and family.

Findings from Planet Ark's Adding Trees - A Prescription for Health, Happiness and Fulfilment report was conducted ahead of National Tree Day taking place Sunday July 31.

Fuller notes the increasing rate of psychological problems among Australians to explain the significance of helping people be present.

"There are two things that are common among all psychological problems; sleep disturbance and loss of presence," Fuller said.

Increasingly, people find it difficult to be where they are or just simply concentrate.

"If you're anxious you are often anticipating what's about to happen and if you're depressed you are regretful about what has happened," Fuller said.

Fuller said connecting with something other than ourselves, like nature and people is extremely valuable in reducing stress with just 10 minutes spent outside helping to lower blood pressure and improve mental wellbeing.

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