I hate thinking about the time my closest friend was in the hospital with a serious illness. He, the patient, was a mess; I, the caregiver, was possibly even worse for worry and fear. It was then I discovered the magic pill. Not in the hospital pharmacy, but in its front courtyard.

Just a few feet away from the driveway, the architects had sculpted in a tiny vest-pocket park, full of greenery and a bench that faced away from trouble and gave, instead, a view of nature and a wonderful blanket of coolness. It became my refuge, 20 minutes at a time staring up into the tree and shadows, from the hell that is a hospital.

Sally Schneider

Now researchers at the University of Michigan have proven experimentally that such mini-doses of nature are the best prescription for all kinds of stresses – including those we encounter every day at work. It’s called a “nature pill,” the Michigan researchers told Fast Company:

“What’s a nature pill? It’s simply going outside to spend some time in a place that feels like nature. You can sit or you can walk. You cannot exercise or use your phone. And it doesn’t even need to be a park or forest where you spend time, according to the study’s lead researcher MaryCarol R. Hunter. ‘Maybe the walk out the front door of wherever you work,’ Hunter tells Co.Design. ‘If you have street trees or an open skyscape–if you see anything that feels like a nature–it starts.

…there is really no single definition of “nature” that works for everyone, which is why she thinks urban spaces need a healthy variety of green designs, and it’s so important that you find a space that resonates with you.

Just 20 minutes of greenery is enough to significantly change your inner cortisol levels, your stress indicator. It’s cheaper than drinking and much healthier than taking “real” drugs. The nature pill saved my sanity while the doctors saved my friend’s life.


Sally Schneider


With thanks to David Saltman.

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