Getting Back To Our Roots: How Nature Can Help You Manage Stress in the New Year

Woman running. Female runner jogging, training for marathon. Fit girl fitness athlete model exercising outdoor. New year new you? It’s a familiar mantra come January as many of us reflect on the past year and resolve to make positive changes moving forward. If you’re like most people, maybe you feel determined to lose a few pounds, save more money, or get a little more organized. While these are all superb resolutions, the American Medical Association (AMA) is encouraging us all to add some health and wellness goals to our list, and their suggestions might surprise you. The group of medical experts is promoting a more holistic approach to health and wellness with ideas like knowing your blood pressure, consuming less processed foods, and learning your risk for Type 2 diabetes. They’re also emphasizing the importance of stress management, including prioritizing physical activities, spending more time outside, and enjoying nature. But why such a focus on stress management and nature? Simply put, spending time outdoors can help us relax, decompress, and take our mind off of life’s common stressors such as jobs, finances, or relationships. In fact, a 2015 study out of Stanford University found that participants who walked for 90 minutes in a natural, vegetative setting showed decreased neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex—the area of our brain that is active when we fixate on negative emotions and feelings. However, participants who walked in busy urban settings did not showcase the same benefits. Here in Boise, we are blessed to have access to world-class biking, hiking, and running trails a mere minutes from downtown. This means that we have ample opportunity to take a break from our busy lives and walk, hike, bike, or simply enjoy the views along the city’s many beautiful trails. Take Camel’s Back, for example, located in Boise’s North End neighborhood. Boise State University researchers just completed a study evaluating the connection between nature and stress and found that cortisol levels decreased among participants who spent time hiking behind Camel’s Back Park. The link between physical exercise and stress levels has long been established, but the studies out of BSU and Stanford add quantitative evidence to the theory that nature’s simple aesthetic can also boost our mood and help us manage stress more effectively. With over 190 miles of interconnected trails, the Boise foothills provide unique reprieve for our city’s residents and a powerful opportunity to manage stress and anxiety. If stress management is one of your resolutions this year, you are not alone. Here at Om Med Spa in downtown Boise, we are all about taking a break from our beautiful city center and escaping into the area’s natural beauty. We want to help you achieve and cultivate your health and wellness goals, so whether you’re a biker, runner, skier, or gazer, go out and explore! We’ll be here when you get back.