The October 2011 issue of American Psychologist (Vol. 66, No. 7, 579–592) published an article about lifestyle and mental health by Dr. Roger Walsh.   Dr. Walsh described eight areas for Therapeutic Lifestyle Change (TLC).

  1. Exercise
  2. Nutrition and diet
  3. Time in nature
  4. Relationships
  5. Recreation
  6. Relaxation and stress management
  7. Spiritual involvement
  8. Contribution and service to others

I have already posted briefly about exercise and recreation.  On this snowy autumn day, I would like to focus on time in nature.  I love this time of year.  Three days ago I hiked in a tee shirt.  Tomorrow I may be snowshoeing.  The beautiful contrast of white snow on golden leaves and evergreen needles makes me smile.

Time in nature is the simplest TLC – all you have to do is step outside.  There are many ways to enjoy time in nature.  You don’t have to be in great physical shape to sit outside and soak in the peaceful sounds of chattering squirrels, singing birds, the wind, or just plain silence.  There also are the sights, smells, and physical sensations of nature.  All too often, we spend most of our time indoors amidst unnatural lighting and annoying noise.   This can negatively affect our mood, sleeping patterns, and thinking ability.  Research suggests that time in nature can improve all these things.

Many times I have experienced the truth of this in my personal life.  A bad mood turned around after I sat on the front step and looked at my flowers.   The solution to a problem presented itself as I weeded the garden.  I found stress relief in an afternoon hike followed by a good night of sleep.  I found rejuvenation on a camping trip after a period of hectic scheduling.  Even walking slowly to the mail box (instead of reaching out the car window) and taking time to look at the sky, the grass, plants, or the snow makes a positive transition from work to home in the evening.  I hope you will get outdoors and enjoy nature.