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Stressed? Take a Nature Pill

In All Health Watch, Cognitive Health, Diet and Nutrition, Featured Article, Longevity, Mental Health

More than 20 million Americans feel so stressed that they feel they have to take anti-anxiety drugs to help them get through the day.

Xanax (alprazolam) is the most common one. It’s one of a class of drugs called benzodiazepines (sometimes called benzos).

Although the opioid epidemic gets most of the headlines, benzos like Xanax are also highly addictive. Overdose deaths involving benzos increased more than sevenfold between 1999 and 2015.[i]

And unlike prescription opioids, whose use peaked in 2012, doctors continue to prescribe more benzos every year. One study calls it the “hidden epidemic” because nobody is paying attention to it.[ii]

New research shows that instead of pushing these dangerous pills, doctors should instead prescribe a better, natural solution.

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. Scientists asked participants to spend at least 10 minutes in an outdoor, natural setting three times a week.

Researchers took saliva samples from the subjects before and after each “nature pill.” The samples were analyzed for cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone.[iii]

Dr. MaryCarol Hunter was the lead researcher. She said the participants could choose “the time of day, duration, and the place of their nature experience.” They could sit or stroll.

At the end of eight weeks, the results showed that 20 minutes communing peacefully with nature significantly lowers cortisol levels. Thirty minutes was even more beneficial.[iv]

Dr. Hunter said healthcare practitioners can “use our results” as a “rule of thumb on what to put in a nature-pill prescription.”

Mother Nature Is the Best Doctor

When you feel stressed, spend 20 to 30 minutes in nature. It doesn’t have to be a remote area. Go to a park, a lakefront, a beach, a grassy area, or even just sit under a tree.

The study found that anyplace outside where the participants felt they were experiencing nature reduced stress. But it had to be in daylight with no intense aerobic exercise involved. Subjects were also asked to avoid using their cell phones. And reading was not allowed. It was important to be aware and feel connected to nature.

The idea is to get outside, unplug, and peacefully experience the tranquility of nature, with no distractions. It’s the ultimate natural solution to the stress of modern life.

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