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Connecting with Nature Can Improve Your Mental Health


We’re all so busy and connected that few of us take time to “stop and smell the roses.” I mean this in a literal sense. When was the last time you went somewhere without your iPhone or decided to do something that forced you to be present? I think most of us can count on one hand how many times in the last few years that we’ve stopped and smelled the roses. But there’s something about flowers, grass, trees, and nature that all of us probably recognize as calming. For some, you’re stuck in office 5 – 6 days out of the week and you’d like to relax on your day off. I get it. I’m not promoting another get out and move campaign. I’m promoting the idea that we get out and stop moving.

I take my nephews who are 11 and 4 years old hiking a lot and they tease me by stopping mid-trail, closing their eyes, and putting their index finger up to their lips. They do this because I’ve had them do this pretty much every time we go hiking. I do it so they can focus on nothing but the atmosphere around them. I want them to hear birds chirping, smell the trees, and focus on all of the things so few of us get to hear, smell, or see these days because we’re in a building 50 hours a week. Nature is my meditation. It’s my release. It’s what calms me down and forces me to slow down when everything else around me is moving so fast.

So here’s what I want you to do. Go to your local trail. Don’t worry about your smartphone or who can come with you or what the weather is going to be like that day. Walk the trail. Touch a tree. Skip rocks. So few of us have the calming presence we need in our lives these days that you’ll probably be shocked while you’re on the trail because it’s so quiet and you don’t have a phone to distract you. You’ll probably lose focus because you’re unsure of what to do when it’s just you and nature.

Whether its nature, a good book, or a bike ride, we all need to start paying more attention to how we slow down when life is hectic. Slowing down is a vital part of positive mental health. Once you learn to slow down, you’ll find you are able to handle all the craziness that life throws at you. So get out there and stop moving.

Rodney Long, Jr. is a therapist with Rubber City Counseling. He is the author of The Little Book on Blended Families and The Mental Health Makeover. If you’d like to see a topic covered in Compass Cares, contact Rodney at

Connecting with Nature Can Improve Your Mental Health

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