From the Puget Sound Urban Nature Series
HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR URBAN PARK VISIT
Six easy steps
by REBECCA BAILEY
Have you ever noticed how you feel when surrounded by nature? It’s instantly soothing. That’s because nature and emotional well-being go hand-in-hand. To some of you that may seem obvious, but to others maybe not. But, it has been well researched and reported that nature has healing powers. To get the most out of your next visit to a local park, try some or all of these specific actions.
Walk the open space. It matters more how long you walk, then where you walk. Walking during the first five to ten minutes of your visit (longer if you can) will help you shed any stress that you might be carrying, enabling you to settle in and appreciate the beauty of the park. You can walk the perimeter of the park or create a winding, meandering walk past things that interest you. Let your instinct lead.
Be curious. Find the natural features of the park. Are there giant trees? If so, what kind? Is there a pond, lake or any kind of water feature? Is there an area of display gardens? Can you find a secret garden? What about a view? Once you’ve discovered all of the park’s natural features, go deeper by looking for interpretive signs that will give you a better idea of why it was established.
Get grounded. After you walk, find a place to sit or lie for at least 10 minutes. Feel the solidness of the earth beneath you. Although formal meditation in nature has great benefits, I’m not talking about that here. Let your thoughts about work or challenging relationships just drift on by. Try not to cling, to judge or give them any attention. Notice and let them go. Instead, focus on the natural beauty. Soon you’ll feel relaxation creeping in.
Make it your place. When you sit somewhere, make it your spot by noticing what resonates with you. Use your senses to discover. Is it the charm of the wooden bridge across the way? Do you feel protected by the tree towering above you? Or, maybe you are enjoying the singing birds or chattering squirrels. Do you find the wind soothing or empowering?
Reflect a little. Bring a journal or notepad with you to jot down a few descriptive notes about the place. Nothing fancy, just what you notice. Are the trees beginning to leaf out or are most of the leaves on the ground. Write about the color of the sky and describe the clouds. Is there a chill in the air or are you sweating. Write what other people are doing. Maybe people are walking their dogs, jogging or strolling with a friend. Then, if you like, notice how you feel and write about that. Are your thoughts fewer and far between? Have you stopped obsessing over that report that is due in a couple of days? Maybe the recent tiff you had with your spouse doesn’t seem so big now. Write whatever comes to mind without censorship. Keep it free flowing.
Let the open space free you. Feel the uplifting energy. It’s there. You just have to settle in and claim it. It won’t take long. And, before you know it, you’ll be back for more.