We’ve all heard the quote, “April showers bring May flowers,” but how about these:
- April hath put a spirit of youth in everything. (William Shakespeare)
- The April winds are magical, And thrill our tuneful frames; The garden-walks are passional To bachelors and dames. (Ralph Waldo Emerson, “April”)
- When April winds / Grew soft, the maple burst into a flush / Of scarlet flowers. / The tulip tree, high up, / Opened in airs of June her multiple / Of golden chalices to humming birds / And silken-wing’d insects of the sky. (William Cullen Bryant, “The Fountain”)
Flowery ways of simply stating that Spring is on its way, regardless of how slow it is coming to some parts of the world. And after hibernating throughout a rough winter often buried in copious amounts of snow, trapping us inside our homes till we are all crazed, now is a good time to think about stepping outside to breathe in fresh air.
I am currently reading The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, to my daughter and am reminded by Burnett’s strong belief that the great out-of-doors heals the spirit as well as the body. I put those things in reverse because often this is how the gentleness of a nature walk works. It changes us from the inside out, working on the cares and troubles of the heart and mind, and therefore the body receives the benefits. Why else would the USA’s National Parks be handing out free passes to active duty military and veterans? Studies done on Post-traumatic Stress Disorder have shown that getting out into nature is one of the best ways to create calmness and peace, and reduce the risk of suicide.
Removing ourselves from a chaotic space into a serene one helps us clear the mental clutter that so often overwhelms us, throwing our Fight or Flight response (the sympathetic nervous system) into continual overdrive, resulting in weight increase, anxiety and emotional issues, chaotic eating, sleep disorders, and more. We move from a place where we have no time to think about anything into one where we have time not only to think but to solve problems. Furthermore, at some point, the mind is eased into a happy quietness. Have you ever noticed how suddenly you stop thinking about all your cares and are instead gazing around a forest pathway in admiration of all the things growing there?
Plus, you’re moving! Moving burns the body’s extra stored energy. Nature plus exercise equals a win-win situation, in my opinion. That’s why so many people choose to take their workouts outside (though yours truly finds herself far too distracted to actually finish a rigorous workout; yoga and Pilates are different to me). I see countless individuals around where I live–a desert, of all places–take their CrossFit, P90X, yoga, running, TRX, you name it, out the gym doors because, I believe, they find the environment natural, soothing. To be honest, is there anything soothing about the pound-pound-pound of feet on a treadmill, or the whir of elipticals? I didn’t think so.
In conclusion then, I just encourage everyone to get outside as much as possible with the nice weather coming your way. Mine has already arrived and I’m enjoying it as much as possible before the burning sun chases me indoors with summertime highs. I find it so soothing to just get out and walk around the neighborhood. How much more peaceful and joyous would I feel if I were in a lovely national park?