Every year as April Showers give way to May Flowers and the mercury begins to climb, we awaken from our winter hibernation eager to get outside again. This year the annual rebirth of Spring has new meaning. This has been an incredibly difficult time for all of us, friends, family, and neighbors are still struggling with mental health issues related to fear, confusion, exhaustion, boredom, anger, sorrow, loneliness, grief, or loss. It is not just the winter blues that we need to recover from. The sight of flowers and the warmth of sun on our faces bring a promise and hope for what is to come.
With May being Mental Health Awareness month, I wanted to focus my A Park A Day in May series on meditation, reducing the stigma of mental health, and providing opportunities and outlets for people to connect with themselves, with others and with nature. Parks are places of calm and comfort. Parks provide beauty and are a diversion from these challenging times. Parks offer relief, refreshment, peace and tranquility.
Every day during the month of May, I will describe and post photos of a different Park. My challenge to you is to visit each of the parks highlighted sometime this spring or summer. When you get to the park at some point during your visit I challenge you to stop, close your eyes and take a deep breathe in and exhale it out. Notice the smell of the forest, the way the ground feels beneath your feet, any sounds like the grass blowing or birds chirping or the squirrels chittering. Can you feel the sunshine on your face? Is the breeze blowing? Now open your eyes and take a look around. Notice 5 things around you that you might have passed without seeing if you had not stopped. The bird on the branch above you, the buds on the trees, the ant making its way down the path. Maybe you take your shoes off like when you were a child and explore your senses by feeling the grass between your toes. Be here now, in this moment. Explore the feelings of being one with the forest. It only takes a moment but taking that moment to appreciate being in nature can help alleviate stress, help you think more clearly, and boost your mood.
This year, the 6th year of my annual challenge, I am focusing specifically on “Forest Bathing” and Mental Health Awareness, using parks to provide a respite from the stressors of everyday life. Being outside in nature allows you to spot local wildlife, inhale fresh air, witness spectacular scenic views and even exercise. Parks are least likely to be crowded at dawn and just before dusk. If a parking lot appears full or nearby roadways are lined with cars, please be considerate and come back another time.
Stay safe, stay healthy and remember to watch out for ticks and leave no trace while hiking these parks. #APADIM #aparkaday #tools2thrive http://mhamonth.org/.