Beyond Your Backyard: Winter Wellness Walks on the Prairie

Think back to when you were a kid. You’re running. You can feel the wind on your cheeks. You’re running so fast, the world is a blur. You’re not worried if you’ll make it or if you can do it. Down the hill, past the trees, towards the endless waves of grass. You’re just running outside in nature— For the pure joy of it.

Fast forward to now. You might be stressed, anxious, depressed or overwhelmed. And that seems pretty normal to me given all that has changed in 2020. But here’s a gentle reminder, the prairies, woods, wetlands, and sloughs are waiting for you.

There have been many scientific studies that show we are deeply connected to nature. It can elevate our mood, stop the cycling of negative thoughts, reduce stress and anxiety, help fight depression, restore mental fatigue, boost creativity, and improve brain function. Who doesn’t want a better functioning brain?!

I know, I know, you’re struggling to put on pants and I just told you to get pants, shoes, AND a jacket and head outside. Here’s the good news, if you can’t get out, even time spent listening to nature sounds or looking at pictures can lower blood pressure and reduce stress hormones.

While this might seem like magic and don’t get me wrong nature IS magical, it’s all because our brains are deeply connected to nature. We maybe have changed where we live and there’s certainly more of us and more concrete than there was when Laura Ingalls Wilder was on the prairie, but our brains haven’t changed that much. We still need time outside immersed in natural areas to be well.

Go on, what are you waiting for? The prairie beckons. Can you smell the crisp freshness in the air? The satisfying crunch of frozen ground underfoot, the quiet calm blanketing the earth broken only by a rustling mouse hurrying to its home, hunched mounds of prairie grasses and flowers braced for the winter ahead, resting, laying down their sweet heads. Your eyes calmed by the muted canvas, cheeks reddened by the wind, and the mind restored. Outside in nature again —for the pure joy of it.

Want to learn more? Check out these great articles on our connection to nature and it’s brain boosting benefits:

“Spend Time in Nature to Reduce Stress and Anxiety” (American Heart Association)

“Sour mood getting you down?  Get back to nature.” (Harvard Health Publishing)

“Stressed? Take a 20-minute ‘nature pill'” (Science Daily)

“Spending time in nature reduces stress and anxiety” (Cornell University)