|Hiking: The Nature Cure|
I’m not selling a natural remedy for $40 a bottle. And I don’t live in a tent in the woods next to a lake. (I have tent camped though.) I don’t worship trees or hold seances at midnight. I just find that nature is a cure for many things in our stressful modern life. And the cure is totally free.
I like a comfortable chair as much as the next person. But I find that spending time outdoors, even just a little bit, can make a huge difference in how I feel. If I take a 30-minute walk, I feel rejuvenated for the rest of the day. What is it about being outdoors that is so therapeutic?
For one thing you get sunshine and vitamin D. Vitamin D has been shown to strengthen your bones and improve your mood. For free. People who take a walk for about 30 minutes 5 times a week have a much stronger immune system. You won’t get sick as much and that makes you feel better. It is even a cancer preventative. And all that is free!
An article at The Wall Street Journal says to “Get Your Kids Good and Dirty” to give them a healthy immune system.
If you take a walk, your muscles are strengthened and move the blood around your body. So you get lots of oxygen to all your blood cells. That helps you think more clearly. Good deal. Try taking a walk during your lunch “hour” and see if you are able to get more done in the afternoon than usual.
Keep looking up! Well, don’t walk into a pothole or a car or anything. Just check out the sky. Many days it is like a painting. It’s free art that is inspiring. What a mood lifter! Don’t go a whole day without knowing what the sky looks like.
The sounds of nature can calm you. The sound of waves, birdsong, the wind in the trees are all very soothing. If you can’t get to the real thing, consider listening to CDs of it. It can be a wonderful way to go to sleep or to play while reading.
Take a break from your routine by getting to a city/county park on a weekend. Walking there can refresh your spirit all the while toning your body. We all sit too much, and research shows all that sitting can shorten our lives. Why not get out and enjoy your local parks a couple of times a month? Hiking in the Fall with the leaves changing color can be especially beautiful.
Pictures of gorgeous scenery make nice art for your walls, but how about seeing some of those places on a vacation? It’s affordable to take a short road trip, and there are great state parks to explore. Hiking in the National Parks with family or friends makes wonderful memories and you might get some good pictures for your wall!
Hiking is just walking, and you don’t need to be an athlete to go hiking. Choose places to walk that fit your abilities. There are wheelchair accessible walks and paths as well. Just getting out into the sunshine for a while can make a big difference. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can be avoided by getting out in the sunshine a little while every day.
|Playing in the Dirt is Good for You|
One wacky suggestion: go play in the dirt! If you garden or dig in the dirt for any reason, you will feel better. Why? For some strange reason, a particular kind of bacteria found in soil will cheer you up. When kids play in dirt they get all sorts of benefits. From the linked article: “When the bacteria is inhaled by kids, scientists suggest that it helps reduce anxiety, increase levels of serotonin, and stimulates growth in certain neurons of the brain. Thus it makes them smarter.” They found that mice became smarter from inhaling these bacteria. I don’t know if it makes adult humans smarter, but the research has shown that messing around in the dirt does reduce stress. Maybe that’s why gardeners are so happy! No garden? No problem. Plant something in a pot. You could even buy a bag of topsoil, pour some in a large pot, and just squeeze some of it around in your hands. I know that sounds a little crazy, but it could work. Somebody should bottle that bacteria and sell it! Now what should they name it? “Sweet Germs of Happiness”?!!! If you don’t want your kids covered in mud, just go play with them outside. Some of those beneficial germs in the dirt may waft your way.
With all the beautiful weather coming, don’t miss out. Get outside and breathe in some of that fresh air. It can put a smile on your face!