Can Spending Time in Nature Offer Migraine Relief?
Autumn is all about enjoying the golden splendor of the season: leaf peeping, taking leisurely strolls, hiking in the woods… but if you have migraine, you might hesitate to step out of the door.
For some people, fall is the worst season for migraine. Weather changes, seasonal allergies, and changing sleep rhythms can trigger attacks.[i] At the same time, you want to enjoy the outdoors after the punishing heat and humidity of summer. So what’s the verdict? Does spending time outdoors — especially on a perfect fall day — help or hurt migraine?
Benefits of Nature for Migraine
Have you ever noticed that you feel lighter and less stressed after a peaceful morning stroll? That’s not just your imagination. Recent research suggests that being in a natural setting can help people feel happier and reduce the effects of stress. And stress is one of the most common migraine triggers, reported by as many as 80% of people with migraine.[ii]
We know that low-impact exercise can benefit migraine, but you don’t need to exert yourself to experience the benefits of nature. Sitting or walking both were beneficial in the study, which found that “10-50 minutes in natural spaces was the most effective to improve mood, focus and physiological markers like blood pressure and heart rate.”
The next time you’re out in the woods, try the principles of shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing.” Slow down. Breathe deeply. Don’t talk or listen to music. Pay attention to the sensations of your body and notice your surroundings.
Advice for Spending Time Outdoors When You Have Migraine
Check the weather: If the forecast calls for changes in humidity or temperature, storms, and dry or dusty conditions, you may want to stay in for the day.
Consider air quality, too. Air pollution may trigger migraine, too.[iii] If you’re planning a day outdoors, check your local air quality report on AirNow.gov.
Remember sun protection. If bright light is a trigger for you, wear a hat and polarized sunglasses, or venture out on cloudy days.
Hydration and nutrition are essential. Drink lots of water, and carry more than you think you’ll need. Pack healthy snacks that are free of migraine-triggering ingredients.
Bring your acute/abortive migraine treatments. The CEFALY DUAL Enhanced is easy to charge, lightweight and portable so you can bring it with you anywhere.
Have a plan for managing a migraine attack. Do you know what to do if a migraine strikes while you’re away from home? This is especially important if you’re planning to spend multiple days or weeks outdoors. Long-distance hikers with migraine share some tips.
- Hike with friends.
- Stockpile extra medication and keep it easily accessible.
- Buy a waterproof pill container.
- Bring a cooling wrap or towel.
- Don’t try to push through a migraine attack.
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Reviewed by: Deena E. Kuruvilla, MD, a board-certified neurologist and the director of the Westport Headache Institute, where she employs a holistic biopsychosocial approach to diagnosis and treatment. She held clinical appointments at the Yale University School of Medicine prior to starting her own practice and has authored many articles, book chapters, and research publications.