Spending time in nature – in places with native trees, grasses, and bodies of water – provides a refuge in which our minds can recover from the stresses of life in the modern world. Wandering through the woods feels good for most of us, and when our wandering is done we may feel relaxed and refreshed. Researchers have focused on how big a deal this is, and how it helps us, and the results are adding up. The evidence says that our blood pressure may improve, depressive thoughts may subside, and chronic stress may be relieved. There is research showing that we heal faster when exposed to nature. Our ability to pay attention is likely to improve, and there may be fewer symptoms of ADHD. Sometimes simple things have powerful benefits.
I have led many walks and organized field trips, either at nature centers or with herpetological societies, generally looking for particular animals or talking about how nature works. However, on walks by myself, some of the best moments occurred when I was simply being quiet and taking in all the sights, sounds, and smells without thinking about anything in particular. I plan to lead walks in nature in which we do just that. We will spend some time being open to the present experience, taking in all the sights, sounds, and other sensations a place has to offer and letting go of past recollections or future plans.
Part of what I am describing is called “mindfulness,” the practice of being engaged in the present without judging it as good or bad, just noticing what we are experiencing. In mindfulness practice, when thoughts come to us, we note them, let them go, and return to a focus on the present. Like exposure to nature, mindfulness has a good track record of benefits for health, attention, stress, and mood.
While they certainly can be a form of therapy, I am not offering these walks as therapy for specific disorders. Anyone who enjoys this sort of experience is likely to benefit. On the other hand, I will draw upon my training as a Licensed Psychological Associate to make the experience more beneficial, including ways to let go of the intrusive thoughts, judgments, and habits of thinking that come up during the walks.
These walks will be planned at several preserves, parks, and other publicly accessible places in or near Fort Worth and Dallas. They will not be particularly challenging for someone in average health, and we will discuss avoiding things like poisonous or thorny plants, venomous snakes or invertebrates, which should pose minimal risk. There is a fee for participating, which we will discuss prior to confirming the walk.
I have not planned any of these walks during most of the past year, because of the pandemic. It is important for us to safely get together without an unacceptable risk of spreading the virus. I am hopeful that with increased availability of the COVID vaccine, and with the use of masks and keeping about six feet apart, it may soon be safe to resume such walks some time after January, 2021. If you are interested in participating in future walks, you can get in touch with me using the contact form in this website. You may also want to see the relevant page of the website for my practice as a Licensed Psychological Associate.
Davis, D.M., & J.A. Hayes. 2012. What are the benefits of mindfulness? American Psychological Association, https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner
McGeeney, A. 2016. With Nature in Mind: The Ecotherapy Manual for Mental Health Professionals. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Williams, F. 2017. The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative. New York: Norton