When it comes to nature, I’ve been thinking a lot about movement. Though sedentary themselves, for me, the trees represent the ongoing movement in my life. Their changing identity through the seasons represents the passage of time and our growth each year. Like trees, we change with the seasons, too. We defrost our bodies each spring to soak in the summer warmth that follows. Autumn is for slowing down before we find ourselves in winter hibernation. But in the dead of winter we find ourselves dreaming of constant spring without enjoying our present season. Sure, nature changes. What remains constant is its lasting ability to improve our health and well-being, no matter what season we find ourselves in.
In fact, nature improves our health in more ways than one. Just consider how much time you spend staring at your computer or phone screen each day. Talk about sensory overload! Green spaces provide a refuge from the stressors of our everyday life. Several studies have shown that our minds relax in natural settings, which helps combat our mental fatigue. As a result, our focus and creativity are restored, recharging us for our everyday activities.
Nature’s relaxation benefits also play a vital role in improving our mental health. In fact, those who regularly spend time outdoors are at lower risk of anxiety and depression. Moreover, daily exposure to natural light helps regulate our circadian rhythms, improve metabolism, and keep us functioning optimally throughout the day. This makes for deep, restful sleep at night (something we all could use)!
Of course, nature provides a prime setting for physical activity, too. The outdoor exercise options are endless, with walking, biking, running, and kayaking, to name a few. With so much space to move in, going outside can help us maintain a healthy weight. This lowers blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. Meanwhile, the sunshine boots our vitamin D level, strengthening our bones and immune system.
So, how do we bust the looming wintertime blues and maximize nature’s benefits? MetroParks has compiled a list of ways to enjoy your time outdoors all year long.
Take a gratitude walk
Gratitude walks are a valuable way to discover appreciation for the little wonders in our lives. Go outside and take a walk with no destination in mind. Just walk at a comfortable pace and start thinking of all the things you are grateful for. They don’t have to be extraordinary or profound. Just list them off. As you continue, you’ll discover that this sense of mindfulness helps you find renewed gratitude for your life, no matter what season you’re in.
Gratitude can also be customized to fit any of your outdoor activities. Going on a run? Find a new thing to be grateful for each mile. With friends? Practice mindfulness together and share your gratitude out loud.
Listen to your favorite playlist or podcast
Sometimes, we need some inspiration to get outside. I’ve found that putting my headphones into my favorite playlist or podcast excites me for my walk or run. Curate a collection of your favorite songs, or discover a new podcast that motivates you, and get moving! Here are a couple of our favorites:
Bring a friend
Everything is better with a friend! Next time you head outside, bring a friend along. Nature is the perfect place for connection with its beautiful landscapes and recreation opportunities. Make a routine to get outdoors together each week. You’ll be excited to catch up while also holding each other accountable.
Visit a new park
A change of scenery has the power to renew our love for nature. While our neighborhood parks may be what we know best, sometimes the best part of going outside is discovering new landscapes and offerings. Don’t be afraid to venture further on your next park visit. You might find your next favorite hidden gem spot! Even within Butler County, MetroParks offers 14 unique parks with different trails, scenery, and recreation opportunities. Where will you go next?