Take a Hike!

Spring has sprung and the weather is Beeeeutiful!!! At least it is, here in North Carolina! Warmer weather and blue skies always make me want to get outside after a long, cold winter.

The grandkids (and Nana) are restless, and everyone is in need of some sunshine and vitamin D. One of our favorite activities is to take off to the mountains, forests or greenway. Of course, just walking around the block or through the neighborhood is nice too…..but there’s something about getting back to nature.

I know for myself, those last two months of winter are the hardest. During the holidays, I welcome the cold, snowy weather. The family gatherings, making soups, baking, and a toasty fire in the fireplace, make it one of my favorite times of the year. Then around about the middle of January, I’m kind of “over it”. I get a little restless and start dreaming of sunshine, gardening, and hiking.

There are so many benefits to hiking in the woods. Besides the obvious beauty all around you of budding trees, spring flowers carpeting the forest floor and swollen creeks from snowmelt or winter rains, the health benefits you reap are numerous!

Hiking is proven to elevate the mood. So many of us suffer from some degree of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). It’s depression we can experience from the long, winter days and lack of sunlight. Getting outside as much as possible during the sunny, beautiful days helps to reverse this and feel an overall sense of happiness.

Hiking can also help you shed a few extra pounds you may have picked up over winter. All of that rich holiday food seems to stick around, literally….on the belly, hips, thighs and chin. Even just a 15 or 30 minute walk each day can boost your metabolism, and help you shed those unwanted pounds.

Another term you may have heard of is, Forest Bathing. Don’t worry, you keep your clothes on for this one, well at least most people do anyway. In a world of multi-media, fast-paced, extended “screen time” living, we all need to take a Forest Bath to renew and recharge.
Forest bathing is just getting out there. Immerse yourself in nature. Breathe deeply and embrace your surroundings. I am a huge natural medicine and natural living advocate. It is scientifically proven, that if you spend time in the forest it reduces blood pressure, reduces stress, increases energy, improves your sleep, accelerates healing from illness, and boosts your immune system.

Forest bathing is also know to increase the ability to focus, even in children with ADHD. I know for myself and my family, we would rather use the natural wonders of nature, with no negative side effects, instead of pharmaceuticals. I, myself have adult ADHD and can attest to the benefits of hiking and forest bathing. I notice a marked difference in my focus and attention even just after 15 minutes in the forest. These benefits carry with me throughout my day allowing to focus on all of the tasks before me.
*I understand there are more severe circumstances where people may need additional therapy. Forest bathing and hiking can decrease the need for additional medication, or enhance therapies already in place.

Hiking is a wonderful bonding activity for families or friends. It takes you away from the busyness of our everyday activities. Away from computers, iPads, TV and cell phones ( I do carry mine for emergency reasons, mapping my walk and taking photos.) But I believe for children and teenagers, they should be encouraged to leave their phones at home. Having one or two adults with phones is enough, in case of an emergency. If they do take them on the hike, maybe make sure they aren’t texting or on social media, that defeats the purpose of Forest Bathing.

A great activity while hiking is learning about the trees, plants and animals of your region. My favorite reference books are from the National Audubon Society. They literally have field guides for everything! I’ll share a link below where you can check them out for yourselves. I’ve had these books for years and have learned quite a bit about many areas in North America. My grandkids and I get excited when we are able to identify birds, insects, trees, flowers, and reptiles on our hikes. This practice really connects you to the world we live in. It’s a wonderful learning experience for all, and you’re creating memories that will last a lifetime! It helps children gain a certain respect for all living things. Instead of killing that scary spider, they learn about our friend, the helpful arachnid. It helps us all to respect nature, and learn from it.

So instead of heading to the mall this weekend, or binge-watching yet another murder mystery on Netflix, lace up those hiking boots, grab a walking stick and sunhat and Head for the Hills!!….or nature path, forest or greenway! Gather up the grandkids and go learn about this big, beautiful world! Happy Hiking Everyone!

“Making Grandparenting Glorious!”

References:

http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/shinrin-yoku.html

Health benefits of hiking: Raise your heart rate and your mood

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