A Change of Venue

In my first post, Walk 20 Blocks and Call Me in the Morning!, I talked about the role that walking played in my healing journey. Initially, I walked in my mom’s neighborhood, and then my friend’s neighborhood. And, once I moved to an apartment, through the apartment complex parking lot. A friend of mine asked if I had visited a nearby park—Lake Willastein. At her recommendation, I started walking there. It was summer, so I got up early in order to avoid the heat. My early start offered me the chance to experience many a gorgeous sunrise on the lake.

A sky with pink, purple and orange clouds reflect in a body of water below. Silhouettes of trees like the shore on the opposite site of the water.
Sunrise at Lake Willastein Park

Soon I realized that the benefits of walking seemed to be even greater as I walked among the trees in the park, enjoyed the water fowl at the lake, and witnessed the purple, orange and yellow colors of the sky reflecting on the lake. Soon after starting this morning practice, I picked up The Nature Fix by Florence Williams. In it, she cites a study by Yoshifumi Miyazaki in which he discovered that: “leisurely forest walks, compared to urban walks, deliver a 12 percent decrease in cortisol levels.” His research team also “recorded a 7 percent decrease in sympathetic nerve activity, a 1.4 percent decrease in blood pressure, and a 6 percent decrease in heart rate.”

That resonated with me. The change from walking in the neighborhoods to walking around the lake felt like doubling the dose of medication I had been taking to heal from past traumas.

I began a new regimen:

  • Walk 3 miles 2 days a week
  • Walk 5 miles 2 days a week
  • (And a few weeks later added) Hike up Pinnacle Mountain once a week

The difference that the change in venue made for me was palpable. I noticed a calmness, a better ability to focus, a decrease in anxiety, and an increased feeling of confidence. Of course we didn’t need the neuroscience research to know that being in nature benefits many of us, but as evidence builds, it supports us to be more intentional about adding time in nature to our healing toolkit. More and more doctors and mental health professionals are prescribing nature as a treatment. There are even programs arising called Nature Rx and Park Rx that promote the health benefits of nature and provide structure or outings to participants for sending time in nature or specifically in parks.

I still sometimes just walk, but whenever possible I prefer walking in nature—at the lake or in the woods.

What practices have you found that calm your nervous system and seem to help you recover from past traumas?

When we walk, we naturally go to the fields and woods: what would become of us, if we walked only in a garden or a mall?

Henry David Thoreau

Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.

John Muir


  1. Gladys says:

    a great discovery for you and a nice change to your life style. I am lucky I have a forest a few blocks away!

    • melaniethornton says:

      Some odd things have occurred with comments and I don’t believe I ever replied to this…or if I did, it didn’t show up. I’m glad you have natural places to enjoy nearby too! 🙂

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