23 Minutes in Nature

By Morrigan DeVito

Join Red Rock Audubon Society for our daily “23 Minutes in Nature” 2023 resolution! We will provide you with daily prompts at the beginning of every month to explore nature from wherever you are in Southern NV, whether you’re at home or a local park. Each prompt will help you explore and make your own observations about the seasonal rhythms of nature in Southern NV, from bird migration and plant growth to weather patterns and astronomy. At the end of each month, we’ll hop on a Zoom call together and share our experiences. Join our supportive and growing community to share your observations and express how your mood and stress levels have felt throughout the month as you’ve followed along with the prompts. The next reflection meeting is January 31 at 6:30 p.m on Zoom.

Why 23 Minutes in Nature?

Research shows that spending time in nature every day can have a significant impact on stress levels, whether you’re standing, sitting, or walking. This is doubly true when we practice intentional awareness and create our own observations about nature around us. One 2019 study found that just 20 minutes a day is the right “dosage” of nature to feel the effects of stress reduction. Researchers asked participants to take a “nature pill”, which meant spending at least 10 minutes outside at least three times per week for eight weeks. Participants could choose how they spend time outside for whatever suited their lifestyle, such as going for a run or sitting in a park. Once every two weeks, researchers measured their cortisol, a stress hormone, using saliva samples taken before and after the nature pill. What they found was that participants who spent 20 minutes in nature had the greatest reduction in cortisol levels, meaning they were the least stressed. So why not turn 20 minutes into 23 minutes for 2023?

Birdsong Boosts Mental Health

Making the habit of 23 minutes in nature every day will help you notice the symphony of bird calls and songs. And according to a 2022 study, the presence of birdsong makes people feel happier. Participants in a research study were asked to use a smartphone app to track their mood throughout the day, whether or not they were outside, and if birdsong was present. The result? People who saw and heard birds were more likely to be in a better mood. You don’t even need to wait for spring to hear birds, some common neighborhood birds like white-crowned sparrows sing throughout the winter. Put aside some time every day to go outside and listen to birds calling and singing, you might feel a bit lighter.

Plants Like Creosote Can Lower Stress 

Whether we realize it or not, even plants can improve our mood. Plants have pores just like us, and from these pores they emit compounds that help them ward off pests and retain as much moisture as possible. One 2022 study found that some plants we find naturally occuring in the Mojave Desert like creosote, four-winged saltbush, brittlebush, and honey mesquite contain compounds that have known physiological impacts when people inhale them. These plants have antioxidant, anti-depressant, and anti-inflammatory properties, among other things. Creosote also contains properties that lower heart rate, another indication that being surrounded by nature makes us feel good. Imagine what affects other plants can have on us just by taking 23 minutes to breathe outside.

Join Our Community Today!

With members who participate in the Mindful Birding Network, RRAS is part of an ever-growing community that believes in the restorative power of mindful attention in nature. Everyone is welcome at our end of the month reflections on Zoom. Sharing experiences can be just as therapeutic as spending time in nature, so join us here on January 31st from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Here are the January prompts to get started.