The Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District encourages you to get outside and take a hike this Sunday on National Take a Hike Day. In fact, we urge you to do so. Your mental and physical health might depend on it. If you knew that nature could make you happier, healthier, and more creative, would you make more of an effort to spend time outdoors?
In her book, “The Nature Fix,” Florence Williams shows that nature does in fact make us happier, healthier, and more creative. Williams explains that humans “suffer from an ‘epidemic dislocation from the outdoors,’ and it’s destructive to our mental and physical health.” More and more, people are moving inside and gluing themselves to screens, which could be contributing to depression, anxiety, and stymied creative growth. Williams suggests that spending time outside is the prescription for combating these mental health struggles.
National Take a Hike Day may be the incentive we need to celebrate the great outdoors and get back to our roots. Just 15 minutes spent in the woods can reduce cortisol, the stress hormone. Raise that to 45 minutes, and intellectual capability increases. Imagine what nature can do for your brain and overall health if you decide to go for a walk in the woods just a few times a week.
If you choose to spend time at places like Shale Hollow Preservation Park or Highbanks Metro Park, two of my favorites in Delaware County, choose to do so with intention. A hike can be more than just getting exercise. Push yourself to use all of your senses (sense of taste at your own risk!) while exploring these areas, and truly take in your surroundings. Turn over a log, smell the leaf of a pawpaw tree, and look and listen for wildlife in the canopy.
“Shinrin yoku” is a Japanese term that means “forest-bathing.” This does not involve jumping into a creek to wash up, rather it is the practice of feeling the trees, smelling their bark and leaves, and listening to the wind rustling through it all. It’s about completely submersing yourself in nature. Paying attention to the details may give you a greater appreciation for them, and an appreciation of the land that we come from. The Japanese have shown that this can stimulate creativity, concentration, physical health, and life expectancy.
This national holiday is a good reason to try your hand at forest-bathing; however, we hope that you immerse yourself in the lovely parks of our county on a regular basis. Preservation Parks of Delaware County has over 14 miles of hiking trails. Highbanks Metro Park has over 13 miles, and Delaware and Alum Creek State Parks have a combined 20 miles of trails, as well as plenty of other outdoor recreation. Find out more at preservationparks.com, metroparks.net, and parks.ohiodnr.gov. There is much exploring to be had in our local parks, and we all might be better off for seizing the opportunities that they provide.
Conservation districts and naturalists everywhere hope that spending more time outdoors will build a connection between you and nature. We want that connection to foster a greater sense of responsibility toward caring for the earth, and doing your part to protect streams, rivers, and the land that we depend on for our well-being. So, get out there and take a hike!
If you are interested in conservation of our streams, rivers, and land, check out our website at soilandwater.co.delaware.oh.us. You can follow us on Facebook and Instagram too.
Erin Wolfe is outreach coordinator of the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.