I didn’t realize until recently how deeply nature impacts my mood and emotions. I had gone for a walk in the woods and was taking everything in around me—the smell of pine, the warmth of the sun on my skin, the crunch of the leaves beneath my feet. I felt so alert and peaceful, so relaxed.
That’s when it occurred to me that the times I’m away from nature, cooped up in an office or at home, those are the times when I start getting stressed out and frustrated about every little thing. When I’m inside all the time, that’s when I start feeling down and start wondering if and when things are going to get better instead of seeing the beauty all around me.
When I’m outside, moving and enjoying the world around me, that’s when I see my life with a sense of hope and purpose.
During that walk in the woods, Darren and I decided to wade in the stream. We took of our sandals and walked in the ice cold water looking for wishing stones and marveling at the teeny, tiny fish. We climbed across the branches of a tree fallen across the water and planned out camping trips and days at the ocean. We dreamt up a house in the woods with a big yard and lots of room to move and breathe. Everything we talked about, everything we dreamt of had to do with nature and being outside moving.
I told Darren what I had realized during our day in the woods. I told him I thought being outside enjoying nature and being physically active had a huge impact on my mood and emotions. He said he thought the same was true for him too. The more time he spends inside sitting still, the worse he feels. The more we get outside, the better we feel about life and ourselves.
There is something so artificial about the way we live indoors. The way the fake air feels when its air conditioned or heated is nothing like the warmth of sunlight or the crispness of a cool breeze. The television and music we saturate ourselves with is cheap entertainment compared to the sound of leaves rustling, streams bubbling, and birds chirping.
We went camping a couple weeks ago in Vermont. At night we sat around a campfire roasting marshmallows and laughing with friends. I sat there by the cozy flames looking up and marveling at the night sky—a black canvas poked through with light from other worlds. The smell of the smoke, the sound of laughter echoing off the green mountains—mmmm, there is nothing like it. There is nowhere else I would rather be.
So the next time I get restless or feel down, I’m taking off to the woods. This won’t always solve the problem, of course. Moods and emotions are deeper and more complicated than a birds song can sometimes solve. But maybe stretching my legs and breathing fresh air will solve the problem without anything else needing to be done. And even if it doesn’t, I think I’m more likely to figure out what does need to be done when I’m outside moving and enjoying nature than I ever will cooped up inside breathing the fake air.