Photo: Want less stress? Take a hike

By Kathrin Majic, Development Officer, Community Partnerships

Feeling stressed today? You are not alone. North America is facing an epic epidemic of stress. The use of medications for anxiety, depression, and ADHD are at an all time high. In 2009, physicians wrote 400 million prescriptions for psychotropic drugs — a 400 per cent increase in only two decades.

What if there was a therapy that has no known side effects, is readily available, and is absolutely free?

As researcher Dr. Marc Berman explains, exposure to nature can be the best prescription. Benefits of time spent in nature can include improved cognitive functioning and increased overall well-being. Berman's research shows that even simple and brief interactions with nature can produce marked increases in cognitive control. In short, nature really can make you less stressed.

And exposure to nature doesn't mean heading off to a secluded cabin in the woods. It can be as simple as a walk in the woods or tending to your backyard garden.

According to the authors of Your Brain on Nature, gardening can help improve motivation, help deal with grief, anxiety and depression. It can even help build self-esteem. Serious benefits for spending some time in communing with your herbs, flowers and veggies!

The authors even found benefits from spending time spent with nature in the form of animals we share our homes with. Having a household pet is associated with less frequent visits to the doctor, reduced prescription drug use and greater adherence to medical treatment programs.

Last weekend I got my dose of nature by helping my mother-in-law plant a community garden in her neighbourhood. I can't wait to see what pops up in a few weeks and am already planning some tasty local food recipes. In the meantime I'm going to spend time each day getting my daily dose of gardening.

June 22, 2012

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