Friday, April 22

The Tonic of the Wilderness

Last week I wrote about ways to relieve stress. In my research on the topic one element I didn’t find but should definitely be included is the balm of nature.

This week, on spring break with my family, we ventured to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With no iPods, iPhones and i-Whatevers to distract us, we immersed ourselves in the forest. Our LED-illuminated world was replaced with wildflowers, hemlock and spruce trees and mountain vistas. During a three-mile hike to Grotto Falls we crossed four streams, marveled at the beauty of nature and chatted amicably about whatever popped into our minds. Sometimes we simply enjoyed the silence.

Walking hand-in-hand with my eight-year-old daughter Janelle, she said, “There’s something really peaceful about nature Mommy.”

I couldn’t agree more.

I’m not alone in thinking that green space is calming. For centuries conservationists like John Muir (founder of the Sierra Club), Theodore Roosevelt and Henry David Thoreau have understood the importance of nature and worked to protect it.

Sadly as we’ve progressed as a society we’ve distanced ourselves from nature preferring to spend time indoors.

In 2005 Richard Louv published an interesting book called, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. In it Louv draws attention to the fact that we’re raising a generation of children that are deprived of the enjoyment and benefits of playing outside; benefits such as reducing stress, the symptoms of ADHD and increasing creativity and cognitive skills. He contends that to raise physically and emotionally healthy children they need contact with nature.

While Louv's book is directed toward children, he readily admits that nature has the same power for adults.

The solution to gaining the benefits of nature is straightforward and you don’t need to hike the Appalachian Trail, traverse the Grand Canyon or travel to distant forests. Find a local park and take a stroll. Breathe in the air, feed the ducks and listen to the wind blow through the trees.

As John Muir said, “Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

I'll leave you with a couple of photos from our adventure. Maybe these will lure you outside...

Hiking Grotto Falls trail
The trail goes behind the falls making the 1.4 mile hike
to reach it well worth the effort.

The kids behind the falls

Grotto Falls, Smoky Mountain National Park
The essence of the Smoky Mountains--water racing
down the mountain sides toward lower elevations.
Streams like this one litter the landscape.
It's absolutely beautiful.

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