Freeport, ME, November 18, 2021
Over the past year and a half, people have been more stressed than ever before. The reasons why are obvious – from a continued global pandemic, to political unrest, to an uncertain economy, – but it’s taking a serious toll on our mental and physical health. The American Psychological Association found that 84% of adults are experiencing emotions associated with prolonged stress, such as anxiety (47%), sadness (44%) and anger (39%), and that many are struggling to cope: nearly a quarter of respondents said they are drinking more and nearly two-thirds are sleeping too little or too much.
The long-term impacts of prolonged stress are alarming, including increased risk for heart attack, stroke and memory loss. And while larger systemic changes are needed, there are small steps we can take in our day-to-day lives to help mitigate stress and manage our emotions.
Strategies to manage stress can look different for everyone, such as eating a healthy diet to being physically active to getting enough sleep, but there is one resource that has a proven benefit for all – the outdoors.
So, if you’re feeling stressed, do us a favor. Open a window or take a few steps outside. Sit down if you can. Look around and really take notice of what’s in front of you. What do you see? What do you hear? If there’s grass under you or a potted plant nearby – what does it feel like? Stay there a moment, clear your mind and take a deep breath. How do you feel?
Something special happens when immerse ourselves in nature. We feel calm, present and at ease. This is because spending time outdoors has proven benefits for our physical, emotional and mental health. Recent research from Cornell University suggests that even as little as 10 minutes in a natural setting can increase feelings of happiness and lessen the effects of physical and mental stress.
At a time when it’s easy to become overwhelmed and anxious, the outdoors is a remedy that is accessible to us all. And if we are mindful about it, we can turn simple, everyday actions like walking down the block into moments of rest and rejuvenation. That’s not to say that more extravagant adventures don’t have their benefits – by all means, plan that hiking trip, but don’t forget that you can enjoy the outdoors every single day. Nature isn’t something that we have to visit, it’s around us always and it is ready for our appreciation and delight.