Improve Your Health by Exploring Nature

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It’s well known that walking in nature positively effects your physical health, but did you know that it improves your mental health as well? As many of us spend more time indoors, we increase our risk of developing mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, mood disorders, and other related illnesses.

As New Englanders, we’re lucky to have an abundance of nature right outside our doors. Our access to green areas, such as mountains, lakes, and forests, provides us with the sort of natural sanctuaries that other places may find rare. When you frequently spend time in nature, you can experience a decrease in stress and anxiety, along with an increase in cognitive functioning.

“There’s the Japanese practice of “forest bathing” or shinrni-yoku which promotes the healing benefits of nature on mental health as well as physical health,” says Dr. S. Tyler O’Sullivan, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. “Of course, the mind and body are interconnected, so mental health and physical health are both key parts of our wellbeing. And the science is there. A study in 2015 showed improved blood pressure, heart rates, and lower levels of adrenaline after spending roughly an hour in nature. So, take some time and unplug. Go out in nature without your phone or camera and bathe in the soothing sounds – and lack of sounds.”

Take advantage of the cooler, late summer weather and explore the natural beauty that Maine and New Hampshire have to offer. Get out there, stay active, an promote a healthy mind!

Here are some local trails to get you started:

East Point Audubon Sanctuary Trail – 1.5 miles – Biddeford, ME

Trail walkers have commented on the trail’s rocky shore, the clear view of Wood Island, and the wonderful scenery. If you hike here, you’re bound to see some seagulls and made even a common eider.

Maquoit Bay Conservation Land Trail – 1.5 miles – Brunswick, ME

Hiking this small trial will give you a break from the city. You’ll find yourself surrounded by extensive woodland, salt marshes, and clam flats. Of course, the trail is highlighted by its views of Maquoit Bay.

Tannery Brook Park– 1.6 miles – Gorham, ME

This is a great trail for all seasons, offering lush greenery and a view of Tannery Brook in the summer, changing leaves in the fall, and snowy paths perfect for snowshoeing in the winter. This is truly a trail you’ll want to visit again and again.

Little John Island Loop Trail – 1.4 miles – Yarmouth, ME

Do you think the Greater Portland area only offers bustling city life? Think again! The Littlejohn Island Preserve offers a peaceful, non-industrialized look at the Greater Portland area. If you walk this trail on a summer day, you’ll find beautiful wildflowers, ocean views, and quiet spots to have a picnic. You could even see a bald eagle or a great horned owl.

Ferry Way Trail Loop – 1.9 miles – Portsmouth, NH

This trail allows spectacular views of Great Bay and the marshes. There have been many reports of wildlife sightings along the trail, including sightings of turkeys, barred owls, and red squirrels.

Prouts Neck Cliff Walk – 4.3 miles – Scarborough, ME

While this trail may not be as secluded as some others, it offers a chance to experience a natural landscape for those in the Scarborough area who may not be able to travel or have a means of transportation. This loop-trail covers not only the cliff-walk, but Scarborough Beach and Ferry Beach as well. There’s no need to walk the entire trail at one time, though doing so would lead to a spectacular day of beach and cliff views of the ocean, as well sightings of piping plovers and sea plants.

There are over 2000 trails across Maine and New Hampshire, so whether you want to make your nature walk part of a day trip or take a relaxing trail walk in your local area after work, there is something for you. Make time for yourself and your mental health.

Visit Portland Trails or AllTrails for more information on great trails near you.

About the Author

Autumn Wentworth is from Lebanon, Maine, a small town on the New Hampshire border. She is currently attending the University of Southern Maine where she is completing her Bachelor’s Degree in English and Communication. When she is not in class or at her internship, you can often find her spending time relaxing and recharging through her exploration of local trails, mountains, and sanctuaries.”

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