Getting outside may heal more than just our bodies. Going for a hike in nature may help heal our soul and mind as well, it turns out. A 2015 Stanford University study shows that a walk in a natural setting can help reduce anxiety and depression.
Rachel Palmer, an environmental education specialist with Metroparks of the Toledo Area said getting outside for even 15 minutes a day can have a calming effect on one’s mental state.
“I think a lot of it has to do with grounding yourself in nature,” she said. “Taking time out of your day to ground yourself to the bigger picture of things helps to calm people. In this day and age, it’s so easy to get caught up in sitting in front of a screen, so just getting outside and getting that vitamin D is a great way to mix up your routine and take some time for yourself.”
Despite the prevalence of technology in our lives, Palmer doesn’t believe it’s harder to enjoy nature — perhaps the opposite, actually.
“There are more opportunities, especially at the Metroparks, to get outside and try something new,” she said, noting that the addition of several new parks is bringing the Metroparks’ goal of having a park within five miles of every Lucas County resident closer to reality.
That said, it does take significant effort on our parts to get out and enjoy nature, she said.
“It’s so easy to whip out your phone and entertain yourself,” she said. “But it may not be the most healthy choice for entertainment. Getting outside and going for a walk is going to take more effort, especially after a long day, to go visit a park and take a walk, but I think it’s worth it in the long run.”
While each person is different in how much outdoor time makes them feel less stressed, Palmer said she prefers to get at least an hour. If she can’t get 60 minutes at once, she’ll take four 15-minute walks outside to recharge.
“I think it helps ground me throughout the day. If I’m dealing with something stressful, I can just take 15 minutes to catch my breath, enjoy all of the beautiful trees and animals around me and make me appreciate what’s really important,” she said.
Palmer suggested visiting different Metroparks to fully explore what types of nature settings Northwest Ohio has to offer, as well as to keep one motivated to keep getting outside.
“It’s really easy to go to the same parks every time, and (don’t) let that routine become mundane because then it’s really easy to skip that time,” she said.
“I really enjoy Wiregrass at this time of year because of the dragonflies,” she said. “I think that’s one of our hidden gems. It’s a neat little park nestled into the Oak Openings corridor… On the other end of the spectrum, I always enjoy Pearson because it’s always quiet and serene to walk through it.”