It turns out those trees and trails provide more than just a pretty backdrop. Nature is packed with beneficial side effects for your brain and body. Connie Kerrigan, RN, BSN, director of outreach, Parkview Behavioral Health, shares more on the pros of this natural prescription.
It’s hard to imagine, but our summer is beginning to slowly wind down and the sun-lit hours are becoming a little shorter each day. The return of schoolwork, practices and sporting events, and cooler evenings is part of the seasonal cycle, but it seems to speed up every year. It feels like only yesterday the last day of school and graduation parties were in full swing and we couldn’t wait for summer vacation to commence. If you feel anxiety tied to this lightening speed pace, you aren’t alone! The fact is that more people are reporting feeling stressed, overwhelmed and out of time today than ever before, regardless of the season.
Perhaps it’s the intrusion of constantly being connected thanks to social media, the Internet and smartphones. Maybe it’s the access to what everyone else is doing and the feelings of inadequacy that can come with that. Or maybe it’s the simple fact that we’re getting older and we are more aware of how precious time is in a world that is full of demands and constant activity. Whatever it is, one thing is certain: We have the ability and the means to make the feeling of time go just a little slower and reduce the stress that seems to be ever present in our fast-paced lives.
Nature is a known healer. It’s all around us, and yet, sometimes we get so busy in our day-to-day rush that we forget to look around and see the beauty and time-altering effects of our natural surroundings. Natural environments are known as healing environments and can help us be more creative, less stressed and more in the moment with those we love, as well as with ourselves.
Nature is indeed a powerful force if we allow it in, as we were created to do. I know it’s a struggle to find time to do something else when life is already so busy. You have a job, a family, school, shopping, cooking, cleaning, carpooling … the list goes on. How are you supposed to cram in time with nature, too? In fact, you may be wondering how squeezing more into your day is going to reduce stress rather than add to it. The reality is that by disconnecting our minds and refreshing the part of our brain that is responsible for creativity, critical thinking and connectedness, we might just enjoy the time we have more completely while being able to tackle the dilemmas we are facing with more creativity and speed than we have in the past.
This all sounds great, but how can another task actually be restorative, right? While, yes, longer stretches of time with nature may need to be more intentional and planned, but each day there is an opportunity to find 15 or 20 minutes to recharge your mind and soul. Perhaps it is taking a walk during lunch or sitting outside to eat, completely disconnected and listening only to the sounds of nature. Watch how the clouds move in the sky and think of nothing else. Maybe it’s a 15-minute walk while you wait for practice to end instead of talking on your phone or thinking about what it you need to do next. Simply focus on the sound your feet make on the ground or the different chirping you hear from the birds nearby. For the days you have more time, pack up the camping gear and head to one of the local state parks in the area. If you have a couple of hours, visit one of the many nature trails in the area that you can find at acreslandtrust.org or through the Department of Natural Resources.
When we spend time outdoors, our minds get the much-needed rest they need and the opportunity to recharge. Our creativity, our stress levels and our sleep all improve by inviting a little more nature into our day. So grab your shoes, your sunscreen and your insect repellant and leave the hustle and bustle of everyday life behind.