Dr. Hipp’s simple tip for reducing holiday stress and tackling resolutions — spend time in a park

The holiday season, while fun, can be draining. When you add the pressure of New Year’s resolutions, stress levels can rise. Environmental health expert J. Aaron Hipp, Ph.D., says that simply getting out of the house and going to a local park has the potential to lower stress and increase focus.

“Parks allow us to physically and psychologically get away from stressful environments,” says Hipp, assistant professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis. “A quick walk in the park can do wonders. Parks are a free source of great interest and fascination for kids and adults alike.

“Spending time in a park is a restorative activity that can recharge your batteries,” he says. “A resolution to take advantage of local parks can contribute to a healthy, green year. Plus, a walk in the park can help you relax and refocus on New Year’s resolutions that may already have been broken.”

Research has linked visiting parks to improvements in mood, concentration and positive feelings. Similarly, people taking a walk in or even viewing a park report reduced feelings of depression, anxiety, anger and tension. Some doctors are even making “park prescriptions.”

According to Hipp, cold weather and time constraints should not keep you away from a park.

“Put it on your calendar to bundle up, get outside and enjoy the crisp air and smells of the holiday season,” he says. “It’s the perfect gift to yourself and family.”