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Do you want to be happier? Reduce your stress? Improve attention? I have one simple activity that can do all this, for free…be nurtured by nature through walks.   

Psychological research is advancing our understanding of how time in nature can improve our mental health and sharpen our cognition, including improved attention, lower stress, better mood, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders, and even upticks in empathy and cooperation. 

How? 

  1. You aren’t staring at a device; instead, you are looking at nature, which allows the eyes to relax and reduces eye strain. 
  2. You promote blood circulation, increase your heart rate and lung capacity, and flood your body with oxygen. All great things! 
  3. Listening to the sounds of nature calms the body by altering connections in our brain that reduce our body’s natural fight-or-flight instinct. Nature sounds distract us from daily anxiety and worries, redirecting our tensions and stresses outward to outside objects and movements.
  4. If you bring a friend, you can get and give a free therapy session. 

You don’t need to travel to the Poconos or Delaware Water Gap to get the benefits. Although, those are great day trips to take with your kids, especially now with the beauty fall brings. Walking around your neighborhood or a local park has just as many benefits. 

As I recover from spinal surgery, one of the only things I can do is walk, and you had better believe I do. My husband and I walk our son to school with our dog each morning. We do about a mile, and at night, we do another with the dog in the dark, which I love! Walking at night is so therapeutic. Everything is muffled and quiet, and I feel so at peace afterward. 

Don’t believe me? Lisa Nisbet, Ph.D, a psychologist at Trent University in Ontario, Canada, who studies the effects of being nurturing by nature, states, “There is mounting evidence, from dozens and dozens of researchers, that nature has benefits for both physical and psychological human well­being. You can boost your mood just by walking in nature, even urban nature. And your connection with the natural world seems to contribute to happiness even when you’re not physically immersed in nature.”

It’s supposed to be beautiful this weekend, so carve some time for yourself and your family to walk. It doesn’t have to be long. 15 minutes will do. Perhaps you can turn it into a daily activity and improve your family’s overall health. They will thank you for it.