PORTLAND, Ore. — Mental health experts say getting outside and connecting with nature is more important now than ever.

We're not talking about a five-mile hike. It can be as easy as looking out a window.

"It's probably more important than ever that when people are pretty clustered up in their homes or their apartments... to be getting outdoors," said Ryan Reese, an assistant professor of counseling at Oregon State University Cascades.

He said research now shows connecting with nature not only reduces stress but also anxiety even fear.

"Go outside and it's almost like hitting the reset button on your focus and attention and also on your emotions," he explained.

But Reese stressed, in order for this work, you have pay attention or be mindful of what you're looking at.

The following are his recommendations:

  • Get outside at least once, preferably twice a day for 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Once outside, slow down and notice nature around you like the trees and the flowers.
  • Resist the urge to talk on or even check your phone.

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Reese said if you can get some exercise while outside, even better. But research shows even just sitting outside is beneficial. And if you're unable to get outside, look out a window.

"Once every couple hours, just take five or 10 minutes to look outside and kind of soak in what you're seeing out there," he said. 

Studies have shown that even looking at nature images and listening to nature sounds online calms the nervous system.

"It can calm the sort of fear response that people might be having right now and bring about feelings of relaxation," Reese said. 

Feelings many of us could really use right about now during these stressful and uncertain times.

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