Feeling glum, listless, low on energy and/or ideas? You might be suffering from “nature-deficit-disorder” as Richard Louv called it, or from an “epidemic dislocation from the outdoors” as Florence Williams refers to it in her new book.
Here’s a simple remedy: Take one 15-20 minute dose of walking through a park, natural area or other green space in your neighborhood daily and you will feel better. Does this sound too good to be true? Not according to Williams’ new book The Nature Fix – Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative.
Jason Mark wrote in his recent New York Times review of this book: “Imagine a miracle drug that could ease many of the stresses of modern life – a combination mood enhancer and smart pill that might even encourage the remission of cancer. Now imagine that this cure-all was an old-fashioned folk remedy: Just take a hike in the woods or a walk in the park. No prescription necessary.”
Although I have not read this book yet (I will), the title rings true. My book Look Up! Birds and Other Natural Wonders Just Outside Your Window http://conservationcatalyst.org/look-up/ preaches the same gospel.
I practiced what Williams and I both preach today. It was a cold, rainy, dreary day here in Seattle. I had been preparing for upcoming tours and classes when the rain finally broke near dusk. I threw on my coat and hustled outside for a short walk in the remaining light. I was glad that I did.
In the course of my 20 minute walk through Ravenna Park, along a tree-lined boulevard designed by the Olmsted Brothers, and back through a historic neighborhood to my house, I encountered multiple sensations that made this gray day brighter.
While crossing the pedestrian and bicycle-only bridge that spans Ravenna Park, I heard the full song of a Pacific Wren sung several times. This is no ordinary tune. It is the longest bird song in North America, with a trilling assortment of 40+ notes. The singer is a bird that only weighs 4 ounces. This was a virtuoso performance and an harbinger of spring.
Another sign of spring was just around the corner: a blooming Pieris Shrub . A cloud of its sweet fragrance filled the air.
As I circled back home through a neighborhood of well-maintained historic wood homes with quirky and artistic statements scattered about, I came across a yard filled with little ceramic figurines. It looked as if they were swarming to an event of some sort. I grinned in appreciation of this whimsical artistic statement.
Dusk was falling as my stroll came to a close. It brought a bit of magic into the day along with relaxation and exercise. It helped me gain perspective and find joy during a time when the dark days have not only been due to the weather.
As Jason Mark pointed out in his review “Fortunately, getting a dose of nature doesn’t have to be hard. Most people get a lot of benefit from city parks and as little as five hours a month does the trick.”
This is one of the great secrets in life, yet many never discover it. And it is free. The more you do it, the more you gain appreciation for what there is to see, smell, hear and discover. You get ideas, you find inspiration, you become calmer and happier. It works.