By Audrey Boxwell, PhD
“Nature has many gifts for us, but perhaps the greatest of them all is joy; the intense delight we can take in the natural world, in its beauty, in the wonder it can offer us, in the peace it can provide—the feelings stemming ultimately from our own unbreakable links to nature, which mean that we cannot be fully human if we are separate from it.”~ Michael McCarthy
There are so many health benefits we receive by spending time in nature: from the spiritual to the physical and so much more in-between. Each morning as I walk through the woods and trails of our state park’s open spaces, filled with light and color, I am struck by a sense of awe–a “Presence,” of some kind: call it God, Spirit, Universal Truth—the feeling is most often beyond words or language and within this awareness I, and numerous others, are able to connect with our greater “purpose”–our reason for being here; or put another way, our highest version or vision for/and of our lives–beyond the profession/or roles we now inhabit. For years, people have written about the ease with which they made sense of the world and their place in it through walking/and or hiking in nature. John Burroughs often journaled during or after his many outings in which he emerged with numerous “ah ha” moments, one in which he wrote, “I go to nature to be soothed and healed and have my senses put in tune once more.” Now, more than ever, we are called to return to these spaces and places to find a sense of normalcy in a time that is anything but…
Life, as we knew it, has ceased to exist and replaced with one of caution, suspicion and fear, due to this pandemic now plaguing much of the world. Within this environment, our lives, or who we thought ourselves to be, has come into question, as so many of us have lost jobs, homes, and possessions. Life-long dreams have been put on hold and replaced by anxiety and stress as we hold our collective breath in anticipation of the next shoe to drop/the next tragedy, the next death, or the next directive of how to live, given by officials trying to lead in a world of unknowns.
It is within these new parameters of life that moving our minds and our bodies is more imperative than ever –literally/physically moving our bodies and minds from a place of fear to one of possibilities and hope. For years, researchers and scientists have argued the case for physical movement as a prescription for increasing clarity, problem solving, creativity, elevated mood, memory and attention, not to mention, reductions in stress/anxiety, blood pressure and sometimes, excess weight. These benefits stemming from daily walks, hikes, biking, swimming, or any extended physical activity also leads to a stronger immune system and improved sleep.
In other words, movement offers us a plethora of gifts for the body, mind and soul–especially when movement occurs in and through nature–without need of “distancing” from trees, flowers, wildlife, or the sounds of running water, chirping birds, and the wind.
We are all one in and with nature; there is no class distinction, discrimination, nor politics associated with our natural world; it is the place from which we/humans first emerged and inhabited and moved through, on a daily basis, and it is perhaps the best place for us now to return–at least for a while.
Dr. Audrey Boxwell is both a psychotherapist, and an experiential educator. Her guided hiking meditations, Psyche Hike®, stimulates a mind body connection to create a deeper understanding of self and others, an excellent solution for reducing stress and bringing about change. It is effective for individuals, groups and corporations, and is customized to participants’ needs.