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How to avoid burnout: could spending 10 minutes in nature help us to keep our stress levels under control?

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Lauren Geall
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A woman dealing with stress

According to a new study by a team of researchers at Cornell University, spending just 10 minutes in nature has the potential to reduce the effects of physical and mental stress. 

It would be an understatement to say we’re all feeling a bit stressed nowadays. Thanks to the chaos that is ‘always on’ culture, we’re busier than ever: whether it’s cramming in a few emails on the bus or working overtime five days a week, the line between our work and private lives is becoming increasingly blurred.

With this in mind, we’re also more desperate than ever to find an effective form of stress-relief. From mindfulness meditation to CBD-infused gummy bears, when it comes to wellness, we’re up for anything. But could the secret to reducing stress and avoiding burnout actually lie in something a lot simpler?

According to a new study by a team at Cornell University, spending just 10 minutes in a “natural setting” could have the potential to make us feel happier and lessen the effects of our mental and physical stress. 

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The research, which was published in Frontiers in Psychology, was completed by reviewing studies that examined the effects of nature on people of university age, in order to discover how much time should be spent outside in order to reduce stress, and what activities were most beneficial.

According to the study, just sitting in nature for 10 minutes has the same affect as going for a walk – meaning that eating our lunch outside has the potential to help us deal with the daily stress we experience at work. And this 10 minutes doesn’t just make us less stressed; the researchers found that 10-50 minutes in any natural space was the most effective to improve mood, focus and physiological markers like blood pressure and heart rate. 

A park bench
Could a 10 minute trip to the park during our lunch break have the power to reduce the effect of stress?

The study also explains how we can all use this stress-relieving technique, even if we live in the centre of a city. Apparently, the “nature” we spend time in doesn’t have to be a 50-acre forest – it can be something as simple as a grassy park or garden.

“This is an opportunity to challenge our thinking around what nature can be,” said the lead author of the study, Gen Meredith. “It is really all around us: trees, a planter with flowers, a grassy quad or a wooded area.”

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Spending time in nature isn’t just good news for your health – it can help the planet, too

With this in mind, there are plenty of ways to fit these 10 minutes in nature into your daily routine. Whether it’s taking lunch in your local park or sitting down on a bench on your walk home, you’ll still reap all the benefits of this effective stress-relieving technique.

This isn’t the first time a study has proved how beneficial spending time in nature can be. Just last month, a study from the University of Plymouth found that spending time outside has the potential to make us more environmentally friendly. And last year, research from The National Trust found that listening to natural sounds – whether that’s birdsong or the rustle of leaves in the trees – can make us feel 30% more relaxed.

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Lauren Geall

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