Stressed? Take 20 Minutes of Fresh Air.
Stressed? Take 20 Minutes of Fresh Air.

Stressed? Take 20 Minutes of Fresh Air.

We love that self-care is top of mind. We're seeing more fans walking for their mental health, taking forest baths, and perfecting the art of hammocking.

And the one thing they all have in common? Outside! 

Yep, science confirms what most KEEN fans already know: unplugging and heading outside is soothing and replenishing. Science Daily reports that “taking at least 20 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 according to a study done by Dr. MaryCarol Hunter at the University of Michigan, who set out to find the most effective dose of a nature experience. She wants to see healthcare professionals giving out “nature pill” prescriptions that send patients outdoors as part of their care plan.

Connecting with nature in downtown San Diego at Balboa Park.

20 minutes of outside time was enough to efficiently lower levels of cortisol.

“Nature pills could be a low-cost solution to reduce the negative health impacts stemming from growing urbanization and indoor lifestyles dominated by screen viewing,” she says. Translation: time in nature can cure what crowded, hectic city life and your endlessly addictive phone/computer have done to your brain. So big city dwellers and people who feel glued to their devices, this one’s for you.

Her team found that 20 minutes of outside time was enough to efficiently lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that makes you feel nervous, antsy, frazzled, freaked out, and otherwise unchill. Of course, nobody is chill 24 hours a day—but if the many symptoms of stress (headaches, fatigue, insomnia, racing thoughts, trouble focusing, etc.) are disrupting your day-to-day, lower cortisol levels can be a huge relief.

How to Do Your “20 Minutes” Right (It’s Super Easy):

1. Go out when it’s still daylight (even if the weather’s not . . . ideal).

2. Get off your phone: no social media, surfing the internet, podcasts, calling, or texting.

3. Be silent. It works best if you don’t read a book or talk to anyone either (because those things can have an effect on your cortisol, too).

4. You can exercise if you want, but you don’t have to; you can walk around, stand still, or sit down.

5. It doesn’t have to be somewhere wild and secluded. It can be the little postage stamp park in your neighborhood or a spot in your backyard where you can see some grass, birds, and trees (or whatever your local landscape has to offer). Even if you’re on the 8th floor of an urban walkup, you can at least open your window and find some greenery (or sky) to focus on.

6. Enjoy the fresh air, the sunlight, and the breeze. That’s it!

Will more time outside increase the health benefit? Yes, definitely, but at a slower rate. After the first 20 minutes outside, your cortisol will be quite a bit lower. After that, it continues to go down, but not as fast. So if you’re pressed for time, know that 20 minutes is enough to make a big difference.

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