Seeing Red? Don’t Stress It; Head Outside for Some Green!

from Wildlife Promise

According to the American Psychological Association (APA) more than one third of Americans report high stress levels, and one in five say they feel very stressed at least half of each month. Stress impacts our health with physical symptoms like fatigue, headache, stomach upset, and back pain. It can affect our emotions, causing anger, depression, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping.

Children, as well as adults, feel the pressure from peers, schoolwork, and busy schedules. So what can we do?

Eating right, making time for exercise and spending time with friends and family are all important steps. But, a step outside may be the most beneficial. One study, from the American Journal of Public Health, revealed stress levels fall within mere minutes of being outside.

Here Are 3 Great Ways to Go Outside & Get Calmer:

1. Run (Walk, or Bike) Away From Your Problems

Everyone knows getting moving is great for you; moving around outdoors may be even better. According to Oprah.com, scientists have found that walks in nature reduce markers of stress within the body like decreased blood pressure, heart rates, and lower levels of cortisol.

Get outdoors and get moving with these activities or go to NWF’s Activity Finder for more ways to Be Out There:

  • Kick a ball with your kids
  • Climb a tree
  • Play Tag or hopscotch
  • Host neighborhood relay races
  • Jump rope

2. Be Still Your Beating Heart

Meditation is an excellent stress buster. Why not find a quiet spot in your backyard or local park and enjoy some outdoor introspection? Here are some simple techniques from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Breathe deeply. Focus all attention on your breathing. Concentrate on feeling and listening as you inhale and exhale through your nostrils. Breathe deeply and slowly. When your attention wanders, gently return your focus to your breathing.
  • Scan your body. Focus attention on different parts of your body. Become aware of your body’s various sensations. Combine body scanning with breathing exercises.
  • Repeat a mantra. You can create your own mantra, whether it’s religious or secular, such as “Om.”
  • Walk and meditate. Combining a walk with meditation is an efficient and healthy way to relax. You can use this technique anywhere you’re walking–in a tranquil forest or a city sidewalk.

3. Get Grounded

There’s powerful evidence that digging in the dirt reduces depression and anxiety and strengthens immunity. According to Huffingtonpost.com, a 2008 survey showed gardening may help reduce stress, even among those caring for chronically ill family members. Huffingtonpost.com also reports gardening can help lower cortisol levels and boost mood among people who had just finished a stressful task.

So grab your trowel and some seeds or plants and start growing with your family. Get your kids in on the action with these great tips for gardening with kids.

This month, try an easy, healthy, and fun way to reduce stress– spend time outdoors. Where you’re gardening, exercising, or just “be-ing” a new, relaxed you is just moments away!

For other helpful resources and to learn more about NWF’s goal to get 10 million more kids spending regular time in the great outdoors, visit: www.BeOutThere.org.

Alyson Weinberg (Mom, writer): Alyson Weinberg is a Washington DC-based writer specializing in issues concerning children and families. She is an award-winning speech writer, feature writer and communications strategist and the former editor of Spirit, the magazine of the Special Olympics movement. Alyson’s articles and editorials have appeared in national print media, textbooks, and on the web. She and her husband Josh live with their two daughters, Josie and Raina, in Potomac, MD.