Take a Walk in the Woods and Call Me in the Morning

October 22, 2019

 This blog was first seen on First Narrative

 This is wise advice for anyone looking to lose some pounds, stay fit, or clear their mind. It’s the mind clearing part that’s been getting me out and about visiting the many beautiful parks and trails that Long Island offers. My most recent walk in the woods took me toGardiner County Park in Bay Shore, New York. 

Walking is exercise not only for the body, but the mind. And, when it is paired with nature, the health benefits multiply. One studypoints to the sense of well-being that noticing nature exhibits The study notes that even just focusing on a dandelion growing in the sidewalk’s crack brings a sense of calm. There is mounting research that nature can even help lift a person out of depression. Nature is medicine.

This is not a new concept. I know it, and most of us know it. Caught up in the swirl of everyday activities, we forget that an elixir exists right outside our windows. But it’s hard to make a habit of stopping to look and just see and stare. “We don’t have time for that,” our brain tells us. 

So, the days whiz by, the work piles on, the pressures mount, and our minds become ever more frenzied. Can looking at a blade of grass be so restorative? Well, yes, it can. 

The Long Island Health Collaborative (LIHC), a coalition of the region’s hospitals, county health departments, dozens of community-based social and health organizations, academic institutions, libraries, health plans, and local municipalities, has been pushing the concept of walking, particularly in a natural setting, for sound mental and physical health since the LIHC initiative was founded in 2013. It’s a pretty straightforward idea. The LIHC’s site lists parks and trails throughout Long Island. I have committed to visiting a different one each week. 

And each month, on the last Sunday at 10 a.m., the LIHC invites any Long Islander to join them for a Walk with a Doc. The walk is just what it says; it is led by a physician from the community. Walk with a Doc is a national program that pairs a doctor from the community with a group of interested residents who want to walk for better health. It is free and no registration is required. The LIHC organizes the one that occurs monthly at the Babylon Town Hall Park in Lindenhurst, New York. The next one is October 27th rain or shine. Nature doesn’t guarantee sun every day, but it does guarantee respite for your mind.

Walking is such an underrated activity - being outside present in nature even more so. When you combine the two, it is powerful medicine with nothing but positive side effects.