Lukas Politis Explains How Exploring Nature Can Improve Mental Health & Reduce Stress

When lockdown measures were put in place in March, millions of people were suddenly faced with the anxiety of uncertainty, lay-offs, and working from home. No matter how stressful your lockdown experience has been, there are a few simple ways to reduce the stress, anxiety, and depression associated with COVID-19. As a sports communications and broadcasting professional, Lukas Politis has always seen the physical and mental value of connecting directly with nature during stressful times, and COVID-19 is no different. Growing up in Pearl River, NY, mountain biking, fishing, hiking, and kayaking have always been a part of Lukas Politis’ life and he believes they can be your greatest asset during these difficult times.

Causes of Increased Stress

As the coronavirus spreads, so do anxieties associated with it. In a survey conducted by mental health provider Ginger, nearly 7 in 10 employees indicated that the coronavirus pandemic is the most stressful time of their entire professional career. This aligned with a stark increase in new prescriptions of antidepressants, anti-anxiety meditation, and anti-insomnia medication. Lukas Politis explains that a major aspect of this increasing stress is a disconnection from our friends, community, and neighbors. A growing body of evidence suggests that one way of improving your mental health during the pandemic might be as simple as getting outside.

Benefits of Ecotherapy

A growing scientific field of study called ecotherapy has showcased a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression. A  study which compared the brain activity of healthy people after they walked for 90 minutes in either a natural or urban setting, found that those who did a nature walk had lower activity in the prefrontal cortex. Lukas Politis explains that the prefrontal cortex is a brain region active during rumination or repetitive thoughts that focus on negative emotions. In addition, calming nature sounds, and even outdoor silence can lower blood pressure and the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which calms the body’s fight-or-flight response. However, it is not exactly clear exactly why outdoor excursions have such a positive mental effect, all we know is that they do.

Increased Physical Activity

The benefits of being immersed in nature may also be related to the physical activity associated with them. Whether you are walking or mountain biking, a natural environment can incentivize you to go further and explore for longer. Physical activity can be linked with an increase in endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine, all of which contribute to your physical and mental health. Lukas Politis suggests picking an activity you enjoy and doing it with your friends or family. It can be lawn games, hiking, walking a trail, fishing, or any other natural activity.

Lukas Politis understands that the greatest barrier for access exists for those living in dense urban areas. However, Lukas Politis believes that there is a way around this. If you are unable to drive to a natural environment, he suggests finding pieces of greenery whenever you can. If you only have access to small strips of nature, whether it is trees or patches of grass, try taking your lunch outside, setting up a picnic, walking in a local park,or watching the sunset.