How often do you take a few minutes to really take in the natural world around you? Do you ever just look at the clouds or watch the plants blow in the wind? Really take a second to think about that. Living in Summit County, we have the luxury of having access to a number of national forest access points. So many of us play outside whether that’s by walking our dogs, skinning at the crack of the dawn, or walking to work…but I’m willing to bet that most of us pass right by without absorbing the beauty in our surroundings.

Today, we are going to talk about the benefits of being in nature. There are many different ways you can be present while in the wild – you can lay back and watch the clouds, you can sit and meditate, you can even just stare up into the trees for a while. All of these activities have been proven to elevate your mood and lower stress. Even just having a tree to look at our your office window has shown to increase productivity and happiness in the work place. Being in nature has been so beneficial to your health, the Japanese actually have a word for it – Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing).

In 2020, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published an article on forest bathing as an approach to improving mindfulness and psychological well-being in participants. They discovered a “significant positive correlation between nature, mindfulness, and measures of psychological well-being” when practicing forest bathing.

Forest bathing is designed to invoke all the senses – smelling the flowers, hearing the birds or trees rustle, seeing the plants and animals, and feeling the textures of nature. Trees and other plants capture dirty air and turn it into good air, so each time you escape into the woods, you’re breathing cleaner air. Taking a walk in nature also helps you build a relationship and respect for nature. By creating a connection with the outdoors, you are more likely to want to protect it. Folks who have a greater understanding of the natural world are more inclined to volunteer for a conservation project or donate to a local cause.

You can participate in your locations Wellness Walk to start your nature journey. You can also do this on your own. Next time you have the chance, stop and look up. Put your phone down. Take your earbuds out. Look around. Take note of what you see, feel, hear, and smell. Take a deep breath. Reconnect with the natural world around you.  I promise you’ll feel a little less stressed!

If you’re interested in learning more about other ways nature has an effect on us and our wellbeing, check out these resources:

The City Dark film

Treehugger Blog

Plant Blindness research

The Nature Fix book

She Explores podcast