This past weekend was rough for me. No reason, just a difficult bout of acute depression rearing its head, telling me to hide, to give up. I didn’t want to open my eyes.
My hiking partner/roommate/okay, mom, knows me well enough to recognize this mood – and more importantly that when I’m feeling this way what I need most is to involve myself in an activity; something, anything – anything but lying in bed.
My prime therapy? Going for a hike.
Step 1. After much back-and-forth, my mom succeeded in extracting me from the house and we headed for the trees. I didn’t want to move, not at all; nature – my go-to for finding joy – just didn’t seem like it could possibly be enough to lift my spirits.
Step 2. We delivered to me to my favorite hiking trail, and as I gazed out the car window at the forest greenscape, trail shrouded in ferns, I found myself thinking: alright, okay, maybe I can get through this?
There came a point along that trail where I realized I had completely forgotten that I was suffering. Instead, I was mindful of the here and now.
In those moments, I was in tune with my senses – what I could see, hear, feel, touch – and even taste. I was breathing in the fresh air and smelling the damp forest floor. I felt the sweet brushing of ferns against my palms and listened to the squish squash of my rain boots in mud. I spotted mushrooms, I took photographs in the dirt, and finally, I remembered who I was.
I was enveloped in nature, as if it were a warm hug telling me that it would be okay. I would be okay.
And I was.
In this day and age nature seems to have lost value. But what people don’t realize is that there are significant benefits to the way that nature-based recreation/therapy can improve on our mental health. I think most of us can attest, in one way or another, that being outside in nature can help us feel more calm and more at ease. Next time you venture outdoors in a less-than-favorable mood, see how you feel after a few minutes. Breathe into the moment, and let go. Do you feel more comfortable in your own skin?
Nature really is an incredible medicine.