- Anjali Gupta
Take A Walk On The Wild Side
The research showing the positive effects of nature on well-being are well established. In addition, if given the choice of walking in an urban setting vs. a natural area, research shows walking on the wild side might be better for you. Did you know that listening to sounds from nature even if you can't go outside may be beneficial as well? As we currently live in these days of quarantine, how can we get our dose of the outdoors? How can we abide by public health requirements yet still enjoy some activities outside? What fun ways can we explore?
Q & A TODAY
MARGARET RIETANO, founder of The Elements DC, an organization committed to getting people outside, active, and grounded
Q: Margaret, I know the tag line for The Elements DC is Let Mother Nature Bring Out The Best in You. Would love your thoughts on this right now as we may need assistance bringing out the best in us yet social distancing and closed parks can make that challenging.
These are incredibly challenging times, and the stress and uncertainty that everyone is experiencing is universal. Yet it is more important than ever that we take care of ourselves, our families, friends and community. We want to look back on this dark period and feel confident that we showed up as our best possible selves. Spending active time in nature helps us to be human better. Consider these options to help boost the serotonin and get YOU in your element!
If getting outside is not an option for you right now, do not despair. Simple, small changes can help lower heart rate and calm the nerves. Bring a bit of the outside IN and MARVEL in the MINUTIAE. I have a collection of antlers, seed pods, pine cones, and rocks on a shelf in my kitchen. Just seeing the details of these treasures as I brew my morning coffee brings me solace. So bring the outside in, whether that means potting up a plant, enjoying a vase of fragrant spring flowers, or opening a window and facing the sunshine.
Q: Are there creative ways we can explore the outdoors currently?
Experience AWE as often as possible. It is a great way to elevate your mood and up the endorphins. I love to get my AWE walking along Rock Creek listening to the creek babbling and watching the sunlight sparkle off the water.
Experience NOVELTY for cognition and creativity. Take some time to venture down a trail that you've never traveled before. You never know what amazing discovery you may stumble upon!
I have had so much fun creating Treasures Along The Trails. You will have all the information to tap into some of my favorite, off-the-beaten-track trails and magical spots in our woods, parks, and public gardens. For clues: go to theelementsdc.com, add your email, and you will receive the link to Treasures Along The Trails.
Q: What are some helpful tips?
Many of us are experiencing sleeplessness, ruminating thoughts, loneliness or depression during this time. Anxiety can feel especially acute as we are isolated or socially distanced from our community and routines are knocked off kilter. Solo time in nature can help. Just being amongst the trees and the robust surge of spring growth is beneficial.
1. Before heading to a park, check the website for updates and closures.
2. Savor the time outdoors to be unwired and allow yourself to recharge. Research shows that just forty minutes in nature can protect the aging brain from cognitive decline while providing a turbo boost to mood and creative thinking.
3. Call a friend or take your tele-appointment with a therapist while walking outdoors.
4. Listen to uplifting or inspiring music.
5. Tee up a great podcast or audiobook. I suggest:
The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams
The 3-Day Effect by Florence Williams (podcast)
The Hidden Life Of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate: Discoveries From A Secret World by Peter Wohlleben
6 . Just get outside in nature and be, whether that is moving or sitting still and meditating.
7. Let your mind quiet and your muscles relax.
I harken back to two quotes from John Muir. "Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity" and "into the forest I go to lose my mind and find my soul." I think we realize this more than ever. We just need simplicity.
Thank you to Margaret for the inspiration! Take a walk on the wild side.
Here are some additional resources:
CDC: Visiting Parks and Recreational Facilities
WSJ: Why Walking Matters- Now More Than Ever
Stanford Researchers Find Mental Health Prescription: Nature
Harvard Health: Sour Mood Getting You Down? Get Back To Nature
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