Everyday stress can take its toll on us when it gets to unmanageable levels, and it turns out that nature just might be an appropriate prescription to help us cope and bounce back. According to Stanford researchers, getting out in nature has been shown to lower people’s risk of depression while positively impacting both mood and cognitive function.
Of course, physically walking through a park or along a trail is just one small and obvious part of really embracing the activity. Anyone could simply move their legs and sway their arms to walk through a forest, and yet still not fully experience all the mental and physical benefits it has to offer.
Ever feel like you’re really “not all there” when you get out to walk? Consider implementing the three following tips into your next nature walk to really maximize the whole experience.
Leave your worries behind
Being out in nature surrounded by trees and away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life tends to have a meditative effect on a lot of people. It’s just easier to be present in a quiet, calm, natural environment.
For others, however, it’s not always so easy. Their minds may still be muddled with thoughts of past events and all the things they have to do once they get off the trail and head back home — so much so that they aren’t even able to take in and enjoy what’s right in front of them.
If you ever find yourself at a point along the trail in which you don’t even remember how you got there, or you notice yourself trying to anxiously get to the next trail marker so you can finish, it’s time to take a step back. Release all your past and future worries as you head out on the trail and work on maintaining that level of mental clarity with the next two tips.
Be in awe of your surroundings
We live in an exciting time where we have constant access to stimulation from technology, but the downside is that many of us have numbed our minds to the point of being unable to fully appreciate some of the stuff that isn’t so stimulating. Nature is just one of those things. Regularly getting out to walk in a natural environment gives us the opportunity to consciously reconnect with the wonders of plant and animal wildlife.
There’s no need to book a flight to visit a famous waterfall or go on an African safari in order to experience the awe of nature. Simply getting out to a local park or trail where you can just focus on noticing the shape of a large tree trunk, new growth on a dead log, the colors of the flowers, the sun shining through the canopy of leaves, and the sounds of birds or other animals around you is enough to inspire and astonish you.
Getting out in the fresh air to move our bodies can really help us become more conscious of how we’re breathing, which can instantly change how we feel both in the mind and the body. Making a bad habit of mouth-breathing, breathing too rapidly, or breathing too slowly makes it hard for the body to get enough oxygen, which can lead to higher stress and even illness.
A good breath is a slow and deep one that involves the belly, rib cage, shoulders and clavicles. In addition to helping with mental clarity and emotional relief, deep breathing also brings more oxygen to the blood and shuttles it to the muscles, which is especially helpful on rough terrain or hills during your walk.
So leave your worries behind, get inspired by the wonders of nature that surround you, and just breathe. That’s all you have to do to make your nature walk really worthwhile.