Nature offers healing and hope, even in winter | Pennsylvania Wilds
By Beth Jones
It’s finally beginning: the hopeful journey from Winter Solstice forward as the light continues to push against the darkness at the edges of our days. Unfortunately, it’s still a bit too early to jog our memories of warmer days. The temptation is there for many to gently fold ourselves under the blankets in front of multiple screens and wait for warmer days. We long for the freedom of movement that propels us straight out the door and into the morning without the many layers and the sharp intake of breath.
Even so…..these are the days when we need a taste of the PA Wilds, even more so then the days of endless sun. There is a deep healing that awaits us in the out of doors and for many who find themselves on the edge of – call it what you will – cabin fever, a deepening sadness or even the depression that sometimes comes with the darkness of the season. If we can peak out from under our protective shells and step outside, even for a little while, we will find that nature offers the healing and hope we long to find.
This year I was privileged to receive guide training through the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and was surprised to find overwhelming evidence linking the healing of body, mind and spirit to time spent in a natural setting, even in these winter months.
Many of us are aware of the effects of sunlight to increase our serotonin levels and effectively decrease depression. But in addition to this science, we now know that a walk in the outdoors can actually decrease cortisol, a stress hormone, and exposure to the natural chemicals secreted by evergreen trees (we have plenty of those here in the PA wilds), can strengthen our immune system.
Right now, in the middle of winter in the Pennsylvania Wilds, who wouldn’t benefit from an increase in mood, a decrease of stress and a boost to our immunity?
Beyond all that science, I just feel better being outside and I’ll bet you do as well. Surprising beauty awaits: The ice crystals that form as the ground expands underfoot; the snow, hanging like frosting on every delicate inch of the hemlock branch; the silence that allows us to find a depth of gratitude deep within our souls.
So, I invite you to layer up and go exploring in the Pennsylvania Wilds among these soft, beautiful wild places that will surprise you with a graceful beauty not found any other time of year.
One of my favorite poems, ‘Shadows’ by D.H. Lawrence speaks of this need for winter’s touch: “and still, among it all, snatches of lovely oblivion, and snatches of renewal odd, wintry flowers upon the withered stem, yet new, strange flowers such as my life has not brought forth before, new blossoms of me”
So much can emerge within us if we take the time to wander outside, even in these winter days. Refresh your body, mind and spirit in the PA Wilds!
To learn more about how time in nature effects our health, visit www.natureandforesttherapy.org/the-science.html.