When my infant is inconsolable, a walk outside almost instantly pacifies him. My energetic toddler craves the comforting monotony of swinging outdoors. As a young kid, I was often encouraged to “run around the house 10x” when my mom noticed me getting antsy.
We instinctually know that movement and fresh air is calming. Why do we stop using it as an antidote to stress and anxiety when we become adults?
Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States. Approximately 40 million adults are affected by it each year. Anxiety negatively impacts people’s work performance and home life, yet simple remedies provided by nature are often overlooked.
So how can nature help to decrease anxiety?
When you spend time in nature, the levels of GABA increase in your brain. This neurotransmitter acts like brakes for your brain. When your mind is racing with anxious thoughts, going outside helps to settle your mental state.
Sadly, many adults barely step foot outside during the workweek. If you’re in that boat, I encourage you to make time in the fresh air and sunshine a priority. This simple brain bio-hack will help you to manage the inevitable stresses stemming from work and home life.
If bad weather is your excuse for not spending ample time outside, know that the weather is rarely going to meet your high standards. Stop making excuses. Invest in some good outdoor gear for battling the elements and get outside every day. Check out REI’s garage sales for some good quality, discounted gear. Here are some ways to fit time in nature into your schedule.
- Wear your workout clothes to bed. When you wake up, simply lace up your sneakers and head out the door for a short walk or run. Most people waste the first 10-15 minutes of the day in bed on their phone. Simply reallocate your time in the morning.
- Take a stroll at lunch or eat outside if the weather permits it. This will not only decrease anxiety but it also neurologically helps to increase your productivity for the remainder of the workday.
- Connect with loved ones outside. Play with your kids outdoors, take a walk with your significant other, and go outside the next time you call your mom.