Spring is here! Maybe the temperature doesn’t feel like it yet, but the calendar says spring is here. More hours of sunlight and increasing temperatures make spending time outside more inviting and research increasingly shows us that it is important for our mental health as well. I want to promote a simple call to action for all of us to incorporate more interaction with nature as part of our self-care routines.
There is growing research demonstrating that spending unstructured time outside in natural settings improves mood and reduces symptoms of attention deficit disorder, depression, and anxiety. Aarhus University in Denmark recently published a study concluding that individuals who had more access to green spaces as children, even as small as a grassy area with trees, were at less risk of developing mental illnesses in adulthood.
Dr. Roger Walsh, names time in nature as one of the essential components of a “therapeutic lifestyle” that leads to greater happiness and overall well-being. The research continues to convince us, and even in my own therapeutic practice, when I ask a client to think of a calm and peaceful place, it is almost always a place related to nature.
In Racine and Kenosha we are very fortunate to have access to wonderful natural spaces. Most of these places are free or are very low cost to visit. Petrifying Springs Park is a perfect place to walk on peaceful wooded trails. Both Racine and Kenosha have beautiful lakefronts with sandy beaches and walking paths. The western portion of the counties are close to Bong Recreational Area. Bong has wonderful biking and walking trails, with wooded areas, grassy areas, and marshy swamp areas to look for fun wildlife.
Getting outside encourages us to walk, breathe fresh air, and let the sunshine on our faces. All of these things are good for us and encourage health and wellness. I would challenge you to try replacing one hour of watching TV, with one hour of sitting at the lakefront, listening to the waves. Replace running around a track in an indoor gym with jogging on a nature trail. Even taking your dog around the block and gazing at the blue sky can be beneficial if instead you would be stuck in the house staring at a screen.
I will end with a quote from the delightful book “Forest Therapy” by Sarah Ivens: “Who hasn’t felt happier after a walk in the woods, a picnic in a park, or a swim in the sea? No one.”