Feeling Mentally Fatigued? Try This 20-Minute Antidote To Stress & Overwhelm

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Our series Healthy Planet, Healthy You explores just how tightly human health and environmental health are intertwined—for better and for worse. Each month, we’ll share the latest news on how nature can rejuvenate us on one hand and damage our health when it’s not cared for on the other. We’ll end with timely tips and tools to help you care for your environment so it can care for you.

1. Forest bathing seems to fight mental fatigue fast.

Taking a leisurely walk through the woods, activating all five senses as you go, has been shown to have some serious health benefits. When researchers out of Japan emulated the effect of a forest in an indoor, temperature-controlled environment, they found that women had less mental fatigue (as demonstrated by hemoglobin levels in the brain) after spending just 20 minutes in the environment. (Read the research here.)

2. Keeping global warming under 1.5°C would reduce risks to humans by up to 85%.

We hear a lot about what could happen if we don’t limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, but not as much about what could happen if we do. This new study estimates that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees, which would require drastic measures at this point, could reduce the human health risks of climate change by up to 85 percent. Researchers considered threats such as water scarcity, heat stress, vector-borne diseases, flooding, and agricultural shortages when calculating this figure, and they estimate that those living in West Africa, India, and North America have the most to gain from these warming reductions. (Read the research here.)

3. Nature access can protect our health—down to our DNA.

Telomeres are important structures that cap off our DNA. The longer they are, the more protected our DNA is from damage, and the better our overall health tends to be. Telomeres tend to get shorter as we age. But in one fascinating new study out of Belgium that tracked children’s telomere length over five to seven years, the kids with more residential green space tended to have less telomere attrition (loss) over time than those who had less greenery in their area. Chalk this up as yet another sign of nature access’ measurable impact on health. (Read the research here.)

4. It also might improve our mental health from a young age.

Having access to safe, well-maintained nature areas at a young age might also be key for mental health and cognitive development, according to a new study out of Australia. There, a team found that across eight Australian cities, children who had green space within 800 meters (around half a mile) of their homes tended to have fewer mental health difficulties than those who did not. This research demonstrates the importance of equally distributing green spaces across cities and not clustering them in wealthy areas. (Read the research here.)

5. Soil pollution isn’t just bad for our food. It might damage heart health, too.

Soil pollutants like lead, cadmium, and pesticides pose a risk to cardiovascular health, warns a commission of scientists out of the European Union. In their new article in the European Society of Cardiology, they outline how these pollutants can get into our bodies via the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink (when pollutants are washed into nearby waterways)—and make us more susceptible to certain cardiovascular diseases in the process. (Read the article here.)

Monthly focus: Travel gently

As we head into July and the height of summer here in the U.S., your mind might be on trips to faraway locales. Traveling can expose us to new wonders of the natural world, and in that sense it can encourage us to be better stewards of the planet. But as you likely know, it can also be supremely damaging to the environment. (Don’t get me started on the climate impact of air travel and overtourism.)

Besides buying carbon offsets for your flight from a reputable source (which is a great place to start), summer travelers can think more holistically about the mark they’re leaving behind with their trips. From the gear that you buy for the journey, the transportation you take to your destination, and the businesses you choose to support when you arrive, there are so many ways to make your travels a little bit gentler.

These resources are here to help:

Those setting out on a nature excursion this year can check out the outdoor marketplace Out&Back, which lets you buy secondhand gear for reduced prices. If you’re traveling to a U.S. nature reserve, look into this nifty new mapping tool, climate.park.change, which tracks the greatest threats to parks and how to avoid playing a role in their destruction. And when choosing lodging for your stay, Regenerative Travels’ database will point you towards mission-driven hotels that are committed to leaving a lighter impact on the local community. Happy travels!

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