Stress is part of everyone’s life, whether at work, at home, on the road or somewhere else. One way to get away from the rat race for a week, a weekend, a day or just an hour is to enjoy the beauty and simplicity of the great outdoors.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America notes that about 70 percent of Americans say stress or anxiety is part of their daily lives, and many say it has at least a moderate impact on their lives.
Not only is physical activity beneficial, but just soaking in the sights, sounds, and atmosphere that nature offers is also helpful.
“Parks and other natural environments are a fundamental health resource, particularly in terms of disease prevention,” according to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Forest Service. “Researchers are demonstrating the positive effects of nature on blood pressure, cholesterol, outlook on life, and stress reduction. It has also proved beneficial to those with attention deficit disorder. Spending time in nature also has been linked to longevity and decreased risk of mental illness in studies in Scandinavia and the Netherlands.”
The American Psychological Association offers even more evidence of the benefits of nature.
The APA referred to a study in which participants were given a series of tasks designed to exhaust their attention capacity. After this, the participants were divided, with some spending 40 minutes walking in a nature preserve, others walking in an urban area and a third group sitting quietly reading magazines and listening to music. Of the three groups, those who walked in the nature preserve performed better on a proofreading assignment and also reported “more positive emotions and less anger,” according to the APA.
An article by Linda Kruger, a research social scientist, notes that more than 6 million people have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and Hyperactive Disorder in the U.S.
Nature is important for both adults and children with ADD – thinking and inspiration seem to be linked with moving.” She referred to studies which show that people with ADD perform better throughout the day when they take breaks and experience nature.
Even people who do not have attention deficit disorders can experience symptoms similar to those who do because of the fast pace of life and constant presence of technology, Kruger notes. These symptoms can include difficulty concentrating, being easily distracted, mixing up the order of tasks and a harder time following directions.
“The natural environment can buffer us from the impacts of life stresses” and improve the ability to focus,” Kruger said. She pointed to an Australian study which noted “Access to nature plays a vital role in human health, well-being and development that has not been fully recognized.” Kruger further pointed to studies that people experiencing a “spiritual famine” sometimes turn to alcohol, food, and drugs which are unsuccessful in filling the void “that has arisen from loss of contact with nature.”
She added that focusing on physical activity combined with the effects of enjoying the benefits of nature can help reduce health problems at the prevention stage, rather than at the treatment stage.
Enjoying nature is good for everyone, but the National Wildlife Federation points to some facts about children. “This shift (to life) inside profoundly impacts the wellness of our nation’s kids,” the NWF reports. “Childhood obesity rates have more than doubled the last 20 years; the United States has become the largest consumer of ADHD medications in the world, and pediatric prescriptions for antidepressants have risen precipitously. Our kids are out of shape, tuned out and stressed out because they’re missing something essential to their health and development: connection to the natural world.”
Whatever your age, changing your scenery from the office, school or highway to a more natural setting can have a positive impact on your state of mind.
Fortunately, there are plenty of places in the Brazos River basin to enjoy the best of what nature has to offer, including at the Brazos River Authority’s three reservoirs – Lake Granbury, Possum Kingdom Lake and Lake Limestone. In this busy world, it’s nice to know there are places nearby that can help you relax and unwind as you push the pause button on life’s daily pressures.