The Nature of Stress Relief

Winter in Saskatchewan. Photo by Kristin Ator.
Winter in Saskatchewan. Photo by Kristin Ator.

A recent poll released by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) in partnership with Ipsos Public Affairs highlights a growing disconnect between Canadians and nature. The survey, titled “Nature and Me,” found that Canadians spend an average of 1.3 hours per day in nature during the week and just two hours a day on the weekend. Those polled also noted that they currently spend less time in nature compared to when they were a child (66 per cent).

Canadians also know that spending time in nature is a stress reliever. Eighty-seven per cent of Canadians feel happier, healthier and more productive when they are connected to nature. They also agree spending time outdoors reduces stress and blood pressure. As well, nearly nine in ten parents (94 per cent) agree that it’s important for kids to spend time in nature. Seven in 10 Canadians (73 per cent) agree that spending time in nature sparks their creativity.

Northern lights in Saskatchewan. Photo by Kristin Ator.

Northern lights in Saskatchewan. Photo by Kristin Ator.

So what’s getting in the way of getting outdoors?

The top three barriers to spending time in nature cited by Canadians include: weather/it is too hot outside (35 per cent), too busy with work (34 per cent), and insects/bugs (32 per cent).

Canadians in different parts of the country are more likely to highlight specific environmental barriers. Not surprisingly, those in British Columbia are more likely to say that it is too rainy (41 per cent) and those in Saskatchewan and Manitoba (49 per cent) are more likely to say that it is too cold outside.

Chelsea Walters, from the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, agrees that these days our wealth of responsibilities along with endless options for home entertainment make it easy to procrastinate on getting out into nature, especially if it’s not scheduled in. She also thinks an aversion to discomfort is a big part of what keeps people from getting outdoors. It’s not the controlled environment we’ve become used to.

But the cost of staying perennially comfortable is high. If we don’t disconnect, recharge and reinvigorate ourselves, there’s nothing left for all the important things in life. Your physical and mental health are important. Our bodies and minds are meant for more than sitting in front of screens. It’s healthy to remind ourselves that we are part of a much larger world. Nothing is more effective at doing that than staring up at a 60 year old tree or standing in a prairie field watching the sunset.

If you’re out of practice and looking for an easy place to start, Walters suggests taking a favorite activity (something you already know you enjoy) outdoors. Listen to a podcast, drink coffee, read a book, paint, go running, chat with a friend—things you can do in your backyard or at a local park.

In addition to the obvious health benefits, Walters says, “Connecting with the outdoors connects you to your home. You become more in tune with the seasons, the scenery that makes up the backdrop of your life, and your human and animal neighbors. It gives you a sense of community and belonging.”

The Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Nature Destinations program invites you to take a journey through some wonderful examples of our country’s natural areas and connect with nature. In Saskatchewan, NCC has two Nature Destinations that you can explore; Fairy Hill and Old Man on His Back Prairie and Heritage Conservation Area. Visit for information on how you can get back to nature close to home.