Can you believe the the first 5 minutes you spend outside in light exercise are the most beneficial? This means that all of us are able to take advantage of this easily available natural mood enhancer.
You know that feeling where your brain seems to be sputtering to a halt? Researchers call that “mental fatigue.” I know that I am mentally fatigued at the moment with the constant mind numbing news and politics. Having just returned from 7 days on the Murray river I couldn’t believe how invigorated I felt. Just a 5 min swim in the river boosted my mood to a euphoric state. I hadn’t felt that happy in a long time.
“One thing that can help get your mind back into gear is exposing it to restorative environments, which, research has found, generally means the great outdoors. One study found that people’s mental energy bounced back even when they just looked at pictures of nature. (Pictures of city scenes had no such effect.)” Lauren Friedman As a creative person I was especially careful to do this when I was working at a computer all day in an office. Every couple of hours I would refresh my right side of the brain by looking at pictures of nature, flowers, bouquets, rivers, ocean scenes. A caffeinated boost to the brain. This enabled me to keep going and to stay fresh.
If you are feeling stressed out or mentally fatigued, studies have shown that students who spent two night in the forest had lower levels of cortisol — a hormone often used as a marker for stress — than those who spent that time in the city. (Lauren Friedman and Kevin Loria)
The Forgotten Five-Minute Mindful Mood Booster
~ 2 min read
It happened again today. I forgot to go outside.
I don’t mean I completely forgot to go outside, but I forgot to do my Five-Minute Mindful Mood Booster.
Ever since I discovered the research that showed that the first five minutes of light exercise in nature delivers the biggest mood booster of time spent outside, I realized what a realistic mindfulness practice it is for even the busiest person.
It’s true. The green exercise research program at the University of Essex (UK) has started to quantify some of these health benefits.
“The research has involved a range of different types of nature therapies, contexts, activities, clients, motivations and needs, but all have shown positive health and wellbeing benefits. Findings report that many types of activities, irrespective of activity and duration, lead to improvements in self-esteem and mood, by reducing feelings of anger, confusion, depression and tension. We have also measured physical health benefits, such as reduced blood pressure, and seen how engaging in group activities facilitates social networking and connectivity.”
And you don’t have to live in the countryside or do any particular type of exercise — no three-day hike required — although if you enjoy that, it will probably deliver a decent dose of well-being your way.
The research showed little difference for urban or rural dwellers, or for the type of exercise.
And just in case you are thinking — oh, it’s cold and wet outside, I am not going to get the benefits of THIS Five-Minute Mindful Mood Booster am I?
Wrong. Green exercise works no matter what the weather is — it is not just about getting the Vitamin D or the joy of a spring breeze — the benefits of green exercise transcend the weather. Wow.
The real clincher — what makes it really hard NOT to take up this idea — is the bit I shared right at the start: it is in the first five minutes that the greatest benefit is realized — and that light intensity activities produce the greatest effects.
So I have adapted green exercise into a five-minute mindful walk in nature. No headphones. No cell phones. No distractions. Just noticing my breath, the movement of my body. And the greens, blues, and browns of nature around me. It really is a reliable Five-Minute Mindful Mood Booster — and yet it is one we can all forget.
We forget to do it when we become engrossed in our list of things to do. We forget it when we are taking care of other people’s needs. We forget it when we are rushing.
But when we remember, what a powerful difference it can make. So much so that writing this has renewed my intention to make mindful green exercise a daily habit this year.
So what would your Five-Minute Mindful Mood Booster be? Here are a few ideas, depending on where you live and what is most accessible for you (because if there is one thing we know about forming healthy habits — the easier you make it for yourself, the more likely you are to make it last.) So choose something you know you can do every day for five minutes, no matter what the weather (got a good raincoat?).
Stroll, cycle, run, skip, ride your horse, dance, jump, or cartwheel your way
- on the beach
- in a park
- through a forest
- by a lake
- in your garden
- by a river
- across the moors
- on the plains
- over the hills
- through the fields
- in the snow
- in the rain
- in the sun
- in the wind
Interesting reading isn’t it: Just think, spending time outside improves you mood, boosts your immune system, improves mental health, helps you think sharper and more creatively, reduces stress and inflammation and can help improve short term memory.
Get out there people and enjoy the fresh air. x Lisa.