TSUKUBA, Japan — Looking to de-stress from work-related worries? Try taking a trip to a local park, nature reserve, or green space. Japanese researchers from the University of Tsukuba report that workers who regularly visit forests and other green areas may have an improved ability to cope with job stress.
It may not sound like all that big of a problem upon first consideration, but work-related stress has turned into a legitimate global health issue over the past few years. Countless people worldwide feel overwhelmed by their jobs while on the clock and struggle to achieve any relaxation after hours. Besides the obvious mental and physical repercussions of all that anxiety, work stress also leads to drops in productivity and economic losses.
With this problem in mind, researchers assessed a group of employees across three distinct areas: “sense of coherence” (SOC) scores, demographic attributes, and forest/green space walking habits. An SOC score refers to an individual’s meaningfulness (finding one’s meaning in life), comprehensibility (recognizing and understanding stress in a healthy manner), and manageability (feeling capable of dealing with that stress).
Generally speaking, people with a high SOC score are better equipped to deal with and overcome stress. Prior research suggests factors such as higher education and getting married can promote a strong SOC score. Lifestyle choices like smoking or not exercising however, may lead to a lower SOC score.
A weekly nature walk can ease your stress
Researchers surveyed over 60,000 Japanese employees during this study, all between 20 and 60 years-old. Those who showed high SOC scores also happened to spend more time walking in nature.
“SOC indicates mental capacities for realizing and dealing with stress,” research leader Professor Sasahara says in a university release. “With workplace stress as a focal issue, there’s a clear benefit in identifying everyday activities that raise SOC. It seems we may have found one.”
The study separated survey participants into four groups depending on how often they went walking in nature. Then, researchers compared those nature-walking habits against factors like age, marital status, income, and SOC scores.
Participants with the highest SOC scores reported going for a walk in nature at least once per week.
“Our study suggests that taking a walk at least once a week in a forest or greenspace can help people have stronger SOC,” Professor Sasahara concludes. “Forest/greenspace walking is a simple activity that needs no special equipment or training. It could be a very good habit for improving mental health and managing stress.”
The study is published in Public Health in Practice.