I grew up wanting to be surrounded by nature as much as possible. I never grew out of that. Nature has been my sanctuary, my go-to for times of uncertainty and struggle. Somehow I always find the right answer among the trees and the flowers. As I’ve been walking lately with my daughter beginning to move inside of my ripe belly I am reminded of the therapeutic benefits of nature.
Don’t take my word for it, there are a multitude of academic resources that tout the benefits of experiencing nature. Hippocrates once explained the necessity of “airs, waters, and places”, for physical and mental well-being. Gardens were prescribed for monasteries in the 1200’s “not only for food, but also for recreation in the open air to aid in the recovery of the sick and to preserve health and improve those fatigued by their spiritual studies”.
Humans are multi-sensory beings, and the physiological benefits of a walk in the woods can be found in all sensory pathways – through vision, smell, sound, touch, and taste. It has been found that monotony of stimulation that we receive in our day-to-day indoor lives can be a source of stress, and multi-modal sensory input can drive positive mental well-being. These senses can also help take us back to times of positivity and increase our feelings of happiness.
Just imagining the sound of wind rustling through the trees can bring me back to a venture through a forest the morning after a rainstorm, the smell of fresh dew, the feel of moisture on my face and my vision encompassed of greens and browns and blues. I challenge you this week to leave your technology behind and take a hike. Use your senses as you walk- identifying 5 things you see, 4 things you feel, 3 things you hear, 2 things you smell, 1 thing you taste. Leave a comment and let us all share in the celebration of nature and walking.