5-Day Stress Detox | Day 3: Move

Get Some Exercise Outside

Whether you’re going for a walk around the block or a hike in the woods, moving in nature is infinitely calming.

We know intrinsically that moving our bodies can help us feel better — that frenetic, panicky feeling that comes with stress is almost instantly dispelled once we’re in motion.

Between increasing endorphins, hormone balance, setting the body’s circadian rhythms, and the mood-boosting effects of fitness, physical activity is a stress relief machine, improving our overall physiological and psychological well-being.

Moving outdoors makes it that much more effective: A recent study published in the Frontiers in Psychology journal showed that spending just 20 minutes connecting with nature can help lower stress response in the body. When participants either walked or sat in parks and other green areas for that amount of time, the level of cortisol - the stress hormone - decreased.

Research published at the University of Essex and other scientific evidence demonstrates just how powerful combining exercise and nature can be in stress relief: their review concluded that outdoor natural environments may provide some of the best therapeutic health benefits by increasing physical activity levels with lower levels of perceived exertion, increasing stress reduction, cognitive resilience, restoring mental fatigue and improving overall mood.

So your simple task for today: go for a walk outside - find some green, even if you’re in a city.

Any green space will provide some benefit to mental and physical well-being. In urban areas, more natural landscapes can be found in a park, a quiet corner with a tree, several pots with vegetables growing outside, sitting under a tree or on a bench looking at treetops, or even a peaceful place with a view of the sky and clouds. Finding beauty in small, slower moments, in natural materials, in slowing down and intentionally looking, appreciating, respecting, admiring, and the reverence of our natural environment. Try to do this for 20 to 30 minutes every day to reap the maximum well-being benefits.

Even better - if you can get outside at dawn or dusk.

Research out of Stanford’s School of Medicine shows that viewing sunlight at sunrise and sunset provides the strongest cue for aligning your body’s wake-sleep rhythms. This type of light in the eyes optimizes metabolic function and dopamine production: when the sun is low in the sky, your eye’s retinal neurons communicate to your body’s biological clocks so they’re able to align with greater ease.

Regularity is the key: try to get outside for 2 to 10 minutes at these times as often as possible, even if it’s cloudy. (And of course never stare straight at the sun!)

As with any new habit, be patient with yourself - these things take time and you probably won’t be able to do them all at once. But taking one small change a day consistently will add up to a lot of stress-relief in the long-run. It’s all about incremental, slow, meaningful growth.

Believe in yourself, and remember that you are worthy of this effort - self-love starts with today, and these tools and tips are part of the journey.

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