A New Spin on “Get Outside Yourself!”

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A New Spin on “Get Outside Yourself!”
by Kim High, Metroparks Master Interpreter and Certified Forest Therapy Guide 

Through the ages, poets and bards have suggested what new scientific research increasingly reveals—that spending time in nature improves our mental health. In his essay, “Walking,” Thoreau referred to such time spent as ‘sauntering,’ and he noted that he did it daily for hours, in order to help him ‘shake off the village.’ Today the practice is called ‘forest bathing,’ ‘eco-therapy,’ or ‘forest therapy,’ and it is gaining traction as a prescription for overall health and well-being. 

Recent research shows that as an intentional part of a daily health plan, time spent in nature can offset the mental burdens of today’s fast-paced society, helping to rebalance stressors that come from habits like multi-tasking, overuse of screen time and media overstimulation. In this scenario, distraction is a good thing, where nature’s green and blue spaces—woodlands, waters, prairies and gardens—divert attention to our advantage. Our brains take in the varieties of nature’s patterns, designs and sounds—resulting in a sort of beneficial re-wire that helps replace the space taken up by worries. 

Spending time immersed in nature for good health sounds simple, but certain tips bring better results. First, practice it intentionally and consistently on a daily basis, for a half hour or more if possible. Second, make the time free from any other agendas. Let your primary focus be you in relation to the nature around you, rather than agendas like exercise, gardening, or visiting other people. Finally, think of yourself as a child at play, fully engaged in the present tense, and curious to what’s unfolding. For the time being, remain ever present, instead of trying to capture or express your experience through art, photo or words. 

With so many beautiful places to choose from, Metroparks Toledo can jump start your way to improved well-being through nature. We challenge you to “Get Outside Yourself” by considering ‘outside’ as not only a physical but also a mental state of mind. When you get out into nature, you become free to get out of your head and leave your worries behind!