• Tricia Arriagada

Walks Through Nature: Nurturing Mind, Body, and Spirit

During these unprecedented times many of you have felt anxiety, loneness, irritability, and depression. For some, it may be a lack of motivation, or stress that is keeping you from establishing a routine. With the ever changing demands of work, and/or homeschooling, time may be an issue. A quick and easy fix is to get out in nature. According to Harvard Health, research shows a strong connection between time spent in nature, and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression. In a 2015 study, researchers compared brain activity of two groups that walked for 90 minutes. One group walked in an urban setting, and one group in a natural setting. Those individuals who walked in nature had less activity in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region where there are repetitive thoughts focused on negative emotions. When you are depressed or under high levels of stress, your thoughts will turn into a continuous loop of negativity. Getting outside and focusing on the trees, the birds, and the beauty all around you, distracts your mind from negative thinking, so your thoughts become less filled with worry. Being in nature benefits you physically and spiritually as well. Japanese researchers have shown that sitting out in nature reduces blood pressure, and regulates your heart rate. Spiritual experiences in nature are about rediscovering something in ourselves. Time in nature inspires a feeling of connectivity with yourself and the natural forces around you. By removing the distractions of daily living, you will expand your awareness and feel the vastness of the world. Nature allows you to see that there is a place and an order for everything, including you. So how much time do you need to spend in nature to reap the benefits? According to Psychology Today, about 120 minutes spread out in several short visits or one long hike a week will produce benefits. If you are walking for weight loss, you will want to aim for a brisk walking pace, from 13 to 20 minutes per mile, 30 to 90 minutes, for most days of the week. This is the best time of year to get out in nature so take advantage of it. You can start by setting a goal to sit in a quiet place outdoors for 5 minutes a day, most days of the week. Once you have established a routine then expand the time and try a new location.

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