By Michelle Wilson, wellness program manager
Walk for well-being and see the gifts of nature
This month we are focusing on environmental wellness, which includes taking care of our homes and other places we spend time, as well as care of the natural world. How much time do you spend outside? How much is the natural world a part of your everyday life?
When we are outside enjoying the beauty of the world around us something happens. Our busy minds slow down, our muscles may relax, and our senses may become more alert to the changing smells and sights of nature. When we slow down and pay attention, we often see things that we may not otherwise notice, which can bring us a sense of gratitude and peacefulness. All of these feelings support our well-being.
Here are a few ideas for making a simple walk in nature more beneficial for your body, mind, and spirit.
Choose a place where you can see the changes of the seasons.
Take walks where the leaves change colors, where flowers and foliage bloom, or where you can see the changes in the flow of water in lakes, rivers, and streams. Pay attention to the small changes you see: the way the light reflects from leaves, the different shades of green or gold around you, or the changing colors in the sky throughout the day. Think about how the changes in nature reflect events in our own lives and remember that change is a natural part of life and the world.
Notice and learn from trees, rocks, water, and wind.
Pay attention to the strong roots of trees or the way grasses gently move with the breeze. Notice the way water swirls and laps on the shore. Pick up rocks and notice how strong and solid they are. Then touch a flower or leaf and notice how fragile and beautiful it is. When we look at the natural world and remember that our bodies are a part of nature, we can draw strength and inspiration from everything we see around us. When you walk, think about what parts of nature you connect with. Do you feel strong and rooted like a tree, gently flowing like water, or swirling like the wind? Sometimes we can feel all of these things and nature reminds us that all of our experiences are natural. If you want to experience something different, choose a piece of nature that reflects what you want to feel and let it guide you. Pretend for a moment that you are a strong, tall tree with roots deep in the Earth. Everything in nature has something to teach us.
Write about your experience.
Keep a nature journal. After your walk, write about what you saw. Think about what you felt or experienced and reflect on thoughts you had while walking. Keep this journal for weeks or months, then go back and read your writing. This will help you deepen your experience of nature and support you in learning more about what gives you a sense of well-being.
Nature offers us so many gifts, reminding us to be generous with our own. Give back by making decisions to take better care of nature. Think about ways you can reduce your use of plastic, reuse items rather than throw them away, and recycle as much as you can.
Tip: Invite others to join you on your walks or hikes in nature, giving them the gifts of healing and well-being that can come from our experiences in the natural world.