Most, if not all of us, have experienced some sort of internal hardship at some point in our lives. It could be depression, anxiety, nervousness, grief, overworking… the list is endless. These feelings are not easy to talk about and many issues get put on the back burner. Having such an intelligent organ in our head plus a busy lifestyle can make things quite complex and fixing our issues can require a lot of work. Yet there is one solution that has proven to help pretty much any internal issue: going outside!
I recently went through a period of restless sleep, anxiousness, and feeling unsettled at the end of the day. Nothing drastic happened to me recently, things were good. My friends, family, pets, and work life were totally fine. I decided to sit down and think about what could be causing these feelings and emotions. I lost my Aunt a couple months ago, which was devastating and so incredibly sad, but over time I have been able to come to terms with it. I talk to her when I’m driving, message my cousins more frequently, and spend time with her best friend Lisa who reminds me of her. I also had been pet sitting a lot, something I absolutely love doing, but it keeps me from my home life with my boyfriend and Trooper my kitten. Maybe I was lonely? No that wasn’t it, I still was seeing them every once in a while. I also wasn’t happy with my physical health lately either; watching the number on the scale creep up and up and not being able to go to the gym as much as I wanted. Yet I am still active and a very mindful eater, so that wasn’t it either.
So what could be causing my brain to be so distracted and my moods altered?
I realized I was having a craving that I was neglecting — being outside.
Ask anyone who knows me, my life is hectic. With three jobs plus extra work on the side, I am always running around doing something. This is normal for me and I do enjoy it. The multiple jobs keep my brain from getting bored and stuck in a rut. Yet I realized it had been a very long time since I was outside with no noise, no technology, and no thoughts of what was coming next. It was time for me to just walk, foot in front of foot, with no real destination.
I decided to take my day off (a rare occurrence) to go for a hike. I messaged my boyfriend, Derek, and a few other friends to see if they were interested. No one was able to make it. I decided to drive out to the Red Rock area of Allegany State Park for a solo venture. During my half hour commute, I listened to a relaxing playlist until it suddenly stopped playing. I had lost service. Some people would be frustrated when their jam suddenly stops, but I did not mind. It only happened because I was getting closer to where I wanted to go and I didn’t need my phone or technology. I made my way down winding ASP 1 and ended up at the Eastern Meadows trailhead.
It appeared to be a 4 mile loop on the map. The weather was cold with a few snowflakes falling. I had about 2 ½ hours until the sun set so I ventured out into the woods at a decent pace. I wanted to sweat out frustration and tension.
The brisk air was harsh on my face and in my lungs at first, but after climbing the first hill, it was refreshing and therapeutic. The ground was covered with a blanket of orange, red, and brown and the only noise I could hear were the slight creaks from the trees in the breeze. I could feel my mind shifting gears; the 50+ thoughts I had going through my head earlier that day were becoming muffled and my senses were kicking in. Rotted wood, pine, and wet dirt were some of the smells my nose identified. I made sure to pay attention to the trees I was passing. Their strange buttresses and curves caught my eye and I couldn’t help but wonder how and why they grew that way. Now my only thoughts were of only what I was sensing. I stopped a couple times along my route to stand still, listen, smell, look, and take deep breaths. It was incredibly restorative.
I only encountered one other person on my journey and our interaction was brief, no small talk. Just a smile and a “hello”. He was probably out doing the same as I, resetting his mind and relaxing his soul.
After the 4 miles, I returned to my car. My legs had a tinge of soreness and I inhaled a good amount of Triscuits that were waiting for me. I began to drive home and had the thought, “wow I truly needed that adventure.”
It isn’t just me. Research has proven that humans are happier and more relaxed when outside. After all, we evolved outside so it is no wonder why we find tranquility in nature. We are wired to be calm when outside; we utilize different lobes in the brain when venturing outdoors versus walking down a busy street.
Audubon is the perfect place to get rid of your worries, hassles, and fears at least for a while. There are about 6 miles of trails to explore with plenty of changing scenery for your senses. Whether you go out alone or with people, make sure to slow down and let your brain take over. Turn your phone on silent and leave it in your pocket. Let your brain help you to relax and remember what it feels to be vulnerable and at peace outside. Mother Nature is someone we all can lean on during our times of need.
Audubon Community Nature Center builds and nurtures connections between people and nature. ACNC is located just east of Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. The trails are open from dawn to dusk as is Liberty, the Bald Eagle. The Nature Center is open from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily except Sunday when it opens at 1 p.m. More information can be found online at auduboncnc.org or by calling (716) 569-2345.