I’m back from a week-long vacation with family and friends to northern California. It was my first vacation of the “more-than-a-long-weekend” variety in over five years, and I have to admit time away from the business of business does a body and a mind and a spirit good. I won’t say I feel like a new person, but rather I feel like my “old” self again.
As I sorted and sifted through emails and voicemails and text messages my first day back, getting caught up with what’s been happening in the real world while I’ve been away, I wasn’t surprised to see the headline: “New research suggests nature walks are good for your brain.”
Having spent a good part of the past nine days in Mother Nature’s backyard, I have to agree. Getting away from the hubbub of the city—the noise, the clutter, the smells, the traffic and pedestrian congestion, the visual over stimulation of street signs, business signs, and the blaze of headlights and street lights into the wee hours—and immersing yourself in the here and now with a walk through the woods or along a bubbling stream really quiets the mind and sooths the soul. It’s no wonder then that this article cited a number of studies that confirm being in nature alleviates negative thoughts, reduces stress, and even improves cognition. Sign me up!
Of course, readers of this blog already know that while I believe hard work and perseverance are the cornerstones to many a successful business strategy, I’m also a proponent of building down time into our regular routines as a way to disconnect from the daily grind and recharge our batteries (for more on this, read my blog, Disconnect Rx, from April 2013). Nobody likes a grumpy monkey. Your family will thank you, your friends, your co-workers—even YOU will thank you!
Just why does being in Nature have this effect? Even the experts can’t agree. Maybe there’s something instinctual about the experience—a sort of return to our roots. Or maybe it’s the fresh air, or the fact that we’re not bumper-to-bumper in traffic, or fighting the lines at Starbucks to get our morning latte. Maybe it’s all of the above . . . and just a little bit more.
For me, being outdoors allows me to be present—to mentally and physically be where I am and nowhere else. I’m not thinking about getting on the freeway, or that meeting in the morning, or that networking event Wednesday night. I’m feeling the sun on my face, the soft earth (or beach sand or leaves) beneath my feet, and listening to the birds sing in the trees (or the surf roll up the shore, or to my little one “oohing” and “aahing” over the multitude of sights and sounds that are virtually all new to her).
In such an environment, it’s kind of hard NOT to be present. Why else would I want to be someplace else?
So as we all get ready to celebrate this great country’s 239th birthday this weekend (which is a long weekend for most of us), invariably many of us will be looking for some sort of getaway. Do yourself a favor, add a major dose of nature to your Disconnect Rx this weekend—and if you can’t get away for a lengthy stretch, take a hike! Even a brief stopover with Mother Nature can do you and your stress levels good.
Happy Birthday, America!