In a recent blog I offered ten tips to reduce stress, stress being one of the three components of the Weight Loss Triangle I advocate. One of those tips, a personal favorite of mine, was to spend time in nature. I don’t know about you, but I feel a little more at peace just looking at the picture above. I imagine myself sitting just where the woman in the picture is seated. She must feel the pleasure of rest after exerting herself to reach where she is seated and now enjoying the beauty of nature. I imagine how much more incredible it would be to witness that view in person. I imagine the sounds of nature she must be hearing. I can’t see any birds in the picture, but perhaps they are there, and chirping away with a variety of beautiful sounds. Or maybe there is complete stillness and silence, equally as beautiful and even more peaceful. I imagine the smell of the fresh air and the outdoors and nature. I imagine how the air must feel filling up her lungs. I imagine the feel of the sun beating down upon her skin. Perhaps there is a nice breeze that causes her hair to lay to the left side of her back and neck. Ahhhh.
If you’re trying to lose weight and living a high stress lifestyle, not only should you be paying attention to the food and drink you consume and the frequency and intensity of your exercise, but you should also be mindful of managing your stress. Stress produces the hormone cortisol (also known as the “stress hormone”), and can most definitely interfere with your ability to lose weight. Spending time in nature is a great way to relieve stress, and I personally indulge is this form of stress relief every single day.
Nature offers a delight for each of our senses, and it is no wonder that spending time in nature can help relieve stress and elevate mood. Each morning when I walk in nature at a local park, I tune into each of my senses to not only be fully present in that moment but also to fully detach from the things that cause stress in my life. I notice the trees and wildlife and body of water I see. I smell the mossy smells of the lake and the flowers and the air. I listen to the crickets and the birds. I feel the breeze against my skin and the moistness of the morning air. It’s my single favorite practice for reducing stress and spending time alone with myself in preparation for the day ahead, and I highly recommend it.
Aside from potentially boosting your activity level and getting your body in motion, spending time in nature by taking a walk in a park, garden, beach or amongst many trees is great for your mental well-being and feeling of happiness.
Have you heard of “forest bathing”? I had not. “Forest bathing”, also known as Shinrin-yoku Forest Therapy, is the practice of simply being in the forest or wooded area, and it is said to lower blood pressure and cortisol levels. Shinrin-yoku is a term that means “taking in the forest atmosphere” and it was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine.
According to http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/, among the scientifically-proven benefits of Shinrin-yoku are:
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced stress
- Improved mood
- Increased ability to focus
- Increased energy level
- Improved sleep
Maybe you’re not close to a forest or heavily wooded area to regularly indulge “forest bathing,” but any time you can be outside in nature and away from your electronics, traffic and the other noisy demands of your lifestyle, take full advantage and breathe in nature’s big sigh of stress relief.
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