THE STRAIGHT UP
Back to the Great Outdoors The Healing Properties of Nature
What do wemiss out on when we ignore nature?
Another place that’s great to visit in the fall is Santa Fe, NewMexico. Everyone should go to Santa Fe in the fall at least once.The foothills are covered in trees.They’remostly evergreens, but there are some aspens weaving their way through the hills. In the fall, aspen leaves turn yellow, and when you're in Santa Fe, it looks like someone has splashed bright yellow paint in themiddle of the green foothills. It’s absolutely stunning. Speaking of plants that blow your mind, one of themost amazing experiences I ever had in nature was on a hike inAlaska. Kirk and I were taking a cruise, and we got to an area where we could go hiking in the forest, but the trail was only accessible by helicopter.The area is so remote there’s hardly any people around. After we started our hike, we quickly found ourselves in a damp forest rich with foliage. I swear, it was like a rainforest!The plant life was wild, and I felt like Dorothy leaving her black- and-white farmhouse and stepping into the TechnicolorOz for the first time.The leaves and moss were all these crazy colors, so it looked like some sort of Muppet alien planet.The air was so fresh, and the colors all around us were breathtaking. I never would have imagined there was anything like this in our world. These are all exceptional experiences, but you don’t have to hike to themiddle of a rainforest to enjoy the benefits of nature.You can have these kinds of extraordinary experiences
Mankind has worked really hard tomake the indoors the “best” place to be. In doing so, we made it easy tomiss out on the health benefits of being outside. Research published in the Psychological Science journal found that being surrounded by nature is restorative. Even just looking at nature gives us moremental energy. Researchers in Scandinavia also noted that spending time in the forest lowers cortisol levels and acts as a formof stress relief, and a 2008 study found that “nature therapy” helps sharpen our thinking and boosts creativity. In addition to being great for your health, spending time in nature is also an opportunity tomake some really special memories. For example, I love going to the beach— just not in the summertime, which is the height of tourist season. My favorite time to go is in the fall or winter.There are no crowds or people, and I can just walk along the sand and enjoy the sound of the ocean.These are themoments when I feel most at ease.
in ordinary places if you remember to pay attention.
My favorite outdoor activity is walking Buster. He encourages me to go outsidemore and explore the nature in our urban environment. We visit parks and walk along theCongaree River. Buster loves to see and sniff everything, and he constantly reminds me to appreciate the scenery.When I pay attention, I can smell the seasons changing in the air or spot tiny red buds starting to bloomon the branches overhead. Moments like that can be as amazing as exploring a rainforest inAlaska. We should all spendmore time outside. Kids get a lot of flak for staring at their phone screens all day, but I knowmany adults who are just as guilty. SouthCarolina offers somany places to explore. I mean, we’re only two hours away from theAppalachianTrail, for goodness’s sake! What do you say? Let’s spend the summer playing outside! –Dr. Leslie Pitner
“I NEVER WOULD HAVE IMAGINED THERE WAS ANYTHING LIKE THIS IN OUR WORLD.”
Smile big. Smile often. • 803-781-5225www.drpitner.com
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