I love a walk in the woods, especially in spring when the leaves are budding, the bird’s song sends melodies floating in the air and the sunshine warms my body. My mind is completely enveloped in exploring the woods for signs of wonder and marvel of mother nature. What started out as a walk for some exercise has really modified itself into something that benefits my mind as well as my body.
We meander along the path to the “sittin’ tree”, as I call it. We stop along the way to sit and reflect, rest and relax, but most of all just to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. The tree grows horizontally, perfect for perching upon, like it was growing all along for us to find.
A walk in the woods is relaxing, satisfying and great exercise, but did you know it can have more benefits for personal healing than most people realize? The newest research shows that walking in nature has a list of health benefits that include, but are not limited to:
- Boosts immune system
- Lowers blood pressure
- Reduces stress
- Improves mood
- Increases ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
- Accelerates recovery from surgery or illness
- Increases energy level
- Improves sleep
I was aware of how a walk in nature effects me, but I became more intrigued when I read an article I read by the New York State, Department of Environmental Conservation, “Immerse Yourself in a Forest for Better Health” where I learned in more detail about these benefits.¹ This same article indicates Patients recover from surgery faster and better when they have a “green” view. The article also includes references to over 30 studies on nature and the benefits to humans.
College students can benefit from a walk in nature more than a walk in an urban setting. The video was filmed at Kennesaw Mountain and the streets of Marietta, GA….my old “stomping ground”. I found along with the video a study published by the Proceeding of the National Academy of Science says a 90-minute walk through nature can positively affect your brain.²
The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in 1982, gave it a name: shinrin-yoku. It means walking in nature or more literally translated “forest bathing”.
My husband, our dogs and I went for a hike to the back of our property which is about 1/2 mile to the end of the trail. We enjoyed exploring the woods, looking for morel mushrooms along the way. We didn’t find any….yet. We found a lot of interesting things along the way, including a member of the mushroom family that was interesting to look at, but probably not edible.
Our dogs love going for walks too, exploring the sights, sounds and smells, as well as the exercise. We startled a partridge as we came closer to what probably was a nest. Abbie, my Australian Shepherd, watches to see if the bird is still there as we returned homeward from our afternoon hike.
Ecotherapy is a union between the ideas of ecopsychology and psychotherapy. Fundamental to ecotherapy is our connection to the natural world and the environment we live within. Ecotherapy uses a range of practices in order to help us connect with nature and ultimately with our ‘inner’ nature. Personal distress can be alleviated by developing the mutual connection between inside and outside. Through learning to care for the natural environment we learn to care for and nurture ourselves. Ecotherapy is about personal healing and healing for the earth.³
I believe William Wordsworth eloquently echoed my sentiments in 1798, over 200 years ago. My wish is that 200 years from now, people will still be able to enjoy nature as he did then.
LINES WRITTEN A FEW MILES ABOVE TINTERN ABBEY
[London: J. & A. Arch, 1798]
And what perceive; well pleased to recognize
In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.