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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 July, 2005, 09:47 GMT 10:47 UK
Sea view helps cut stress levels
The greatest stress buster
The sight of the sea is the quickest and most effective way to reduce high stress levels for many people, a survey has found.

A poll of 2,000 adults by Hoegaarden found daily stress is a problem for 30% of the population.

However, 84% said being in contact with the natural elements made them feel more relaxed instantly.

Other popular stress busters included a walk in the park, the smell of cut grass and the sound of birds singing.

The most often cited causes of stress included the morning commute (13%), work itself (32%) and simply getting up (14%).

A sea view: 42%
A walk in the park: 33%
Hearing bird song: 14%
The smell of cut grass: 10%

Just 19% of those who live or work in rural locations say they feel stressed on a daily basis.

On average city dwellers can expect to spend 73 days without more than five minutes of silence at a time, whilst those who live in rural areas go only 14-21 days.

Almost a quarter (22%) of all Londoners have not experienced silence for over six months.

And they are almost as likely to have seen a mouse or rat in the last month (22%) as they are a sheep (28%) or cow (28%).

Christine Webber, who worked on the report, said the fact that people in urban areas seldom interacted with the natural environment had led to rising stress levels.

She said that with little time off people were missing out on both the physical benefits and psychological benefits of the great outdoors.

Lots of overtime

TUC figures published earlier this year showed that the average UK employee does almost an extra day's work a week in overtime.

Soothing song?

Dr George Fieldman, a cognitive therapist and evolutionary psychologist based in High Wycombe, told the BBC News website it was possible that communing with nature helped to relieve stress by repeating the long-engrained behaviours of our distant ancestors.

"I have a theory that people derive comfort from staring endlessly at the television because there is a parallel to the way our ancestors used to stare at a flickering flame, and get confidence from the fact that it might repel potential predators," he said.

However, Dr Fieldman said it was diffcult to separate out the psychological benefits of taking a walk in the park or by the sea from the well known physiological benefits derived from taking exercise.

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