A few weeks ago I taught a class on Stress Relief for Nurse’s week at the hospital where I work. It was so interesting doing research on stress management and seeing what really works.
One of the most powerful and simple ways to reduce stress is to go out in nature.
That seems sort of sweet and obvious, I know, BUT – Wow, there is some pretty amazing research out there on just how much nature can be healing.
There is a classic study where they compared patients recovering from gallbladder surgery. The only difference between the two groups was that during recovery in the hospital one group looked out at a brick wall and the other group looked out at a tree in a courtyard.
“When the researcher looked at their recovery charts, he was struck by how much better the patients fared when their rooms looked out onto the trees rather than the brick wall. On average, those who faced the brick wall needed an extra day to recover before returning home. They were also far more depressed and experienced more pain. On average, their nurses recorded four negative notes per patient — comments like “needs much encouragement” and “upset and crying” — whereas those with a view of the trees warranted negative notes only once during their stay. Meanwhile, very few of the patients who looked out onto the trees required more than a single dose of strong painkillers during the middle part of their stay, whereas those facing the wall required two or even three doses. Apart from their view, the patients were very similar, and they had received identical treatment at the hospital. Each patient with a view of the trees was matched with a patient whose room looked out onto the brick wall, so that their age, gender, weight, status as smokers or nonsmokers, and attending doctors and nurses were controlled as tightly as possible. Since those factors were controlled, the only explanation was that patients who looked out at a stand of trees recovered more quickly because they were lucky enough to occupy rooms with a natural view…By some measure, patients who gazed out at a natural scene were four times better than those who faced a wall….plenty of studies have shown similar effects.“
(How Nature Resets Our Minds and Bodies. The Atlantic 2013 Adam Alter)
Powerful, right? Now you know to fight for a room with a view if you ever get hospitalized.
I looked into the power of hospital gardens and learned:
“Just three to five minutes spent looking at a view dominated by trees, flowers or water can begin to reduce anger, anxiety and pain and to induce relaxation according to various studies of healthy people that measured physiological changes in blood pressure, muscle tension, or heart and brain electrical activities.
“(How Hospital Gardens Help Patients Heal, Scientific American, Deborah Franklin
Amazing! 3-5 minutes! So, if just looking out at nature is healing, just imagine how powerful it is to spend time in nature.
OK, I know-lots of quotes today, but even though I know being outside makes me feel better I still was really struck by these studies. Here’s another,
“A 2007 study by researchers at the University of Essex in England found that a daily dose of walking outside could be as effective as taking antidepressant drugs for treating mild to moderate depression. Of course, it’s no secret that regular exercise is a powerful mood enhancer – although researchers noted that a similar regimen of walking in a crowded shopping mall did not have the same impact“
(Time Magazine Eco-Therapy’ for Environmental Depression. Bryan Walsh, July 2009)
So, for the class I came up with things that busy nurses in the hospital could do to integrate nature into their days/nights to help decrease stress. I though it would be helpful for you all to read, too. Hopefully you can do more than just these little tricks, but they offer some quick easy ways to increase your happiness and decreases stress.
Find ways to get outside.
(or at least LOOK outside!)
Take a walk on your lunch break.
Stop by the healing garden and see what’s growing.
Leave your lunch in your car so you HAVE to go outside.
Walk to get the mail when you get home.
Walk the dog instead of letting it out in the yard.
Talk on the phone while walking (not ideal but at least you’re outside!)
Talk in person with a friend or family member and walk outside (even better!)
Take a moment when you get home to walk around your yard and check on the plants.
Leave your car door open so you HAVE to go outside and can’t get consumed by what’s happening inside. (or you run out of battery :))
Put a chair in a nice spot and let yourself sit there. Even for 10 minutes.Make the family come tell you about their day while you sit outside.
Keep track of how much time you spend outdoors.(This can be horrifying because it may be only to and fro from your car.)
Take a walk in the morning before all the activity begins.
Have your morning coffee or tea outside.
Take your time bringing in wood or bringing out the compost and enjoy the world around you.
Go out at night before bed and look at the moon and the stars.
And if you can’t get outside:
Try and stop to look out the windows when you can, taking a few moments to watch the trees sway or the birds flit about.
Put some chairs by the windows and look outside.
Take some time while brushing your teeth to look outside.
Bring flowers and houseplants inside.
Hang pictures of the outdoors on your walls.
At work, pause by the windows and take a moment to breathe.
I hope that you get plenty of time outside during this gorgeous season.
Below is a video clip of the Spring Peepers and American Toads making their music in the marsh near my house. I love the song of the toads so much. Enjoy!
|American Toads and Spring Peepers in the marsh