I have always loved hiking, and living in Wisconsin there are plenty of places to do it. I’m sure that we’ve all heard that nature really is the best medicine, but lately I have proved just that.
I am grieving. I recently unexpectedly lost my little brother. We grew up in a rural area in Wisconsin, and as kids really enjoyed playing outside. We would hike to the woods and build forts. We loved fishing and even catching crayfish. We would ride our bikes for miles. We sure did have fun and we basically lived outside!
I’m not going to lie, this is truly one of the most difficult losses that I’ve experienced. It’s not just my loss, but my heart is breaking for my two nephews who are at an age when they shouldn’t have to say good bye to their father. My heart is weeping for my parents that have to endure this pain of losing a child. No one should have to go through that.
I was reminded of how much my brother loved nature when we planned his memorial service at one of his favorite spots. I decided at that point, that I had to get back to nature and I have to say it has really helped…
Does Hiking Help With Grief?
According to a review conducted by the University of Toronto, there have been at least 25 studies dating back to the 1980s that show exercise makes us mentally feel better, but how does it help grief? According to clinical experts, grief, by all definitions, includes sadness and sometimes depression. And there are so many benefits to being outdoors.
Nichols Creek State Wildlife Area
There is Solace in Nature
Whether it’s familiar trails, landscapes, animals and plants that hold memories or certain scents that bring you back to a specific time of life. I often find solace when nature makes me realize how small I really am. When everything is put into perspective with a giant storm or a towering mountain. A healing gift only nature can give.
Harrington State Park
The Outdoors Provides Aromatherapy
Take a deep breath! According to science, your should stop and smell the roses! Research shows that natural scents like flowers, freshly cut grass or even pine trees makes you feel calmer and more relaxed. I know it definitely helps me.
Ledge View Nature Center
Your Daily Dose of Vitamin D
Vitamin D has so many health benefits and we get more than 90% of our vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. Researchers believe that because vitamin D is important to brain function, insufficient nutrient levels may play a role in depression, so increasing it is worth a try!
Glenbeulah Ice Age Trail (my Hubby)
Moving Really Helps
Exercise and moving your body releases feel-good endorphins that can aid in stress reduction. And a walk in the woods can be very meditative, allowing your brain to relax and think about things in a new way.
The Tower at Ledge View Nature Center
Studies show that walking in nature helps restore our focus. Being that my mind has been so preoccupied I have noticed that my focus is definitely suffering, so I need all of the help I can get!
The Quarry at Harrington State Park
Spending time outside in natural light helps our bodies better regulate our sleep patterns. When the sun goes down, our brains release the right levels of melatonin to help get a good night’s sleep. I think anytime someone suffers a loss, your sleep always seems to suffer.
Kettle Moraine State Forest-Butler Lake Trail
Nature Teaches Us
Nature can even teach valuable lessons and reveal metaphors to help us connect with our spirituality. The changes of season reflect the peaks and valleys we go through in life. Meanwhile, a coursing river reminds us of our need to “go with the flow” and navigate the waters of life, so to speak.
Ledge View Nature Center
Life Goes On
Think about it, the earth continues to live, and so do the beings on it. The circle of life continues. There will be new leaves in the spring. More wildflowers. Baby animals and new beginnings. I think we all need to be reminded of that from time to time and being in the wilderness definitely reminds you of just that.
Lake Michigan at Harrington State Park
Wild Things Instill Hope
It is easy to feel hopeless when facing grief and loss. But there is something magical about the natural world. And sometimes a little magic can really help. Just look around…there’s beauty EVERYWHERE!
Sheboygan Marsh Wildlife Area
As I hike, I am starting to heal, but I have also thought of it as a sort of tribute to my brother. Spending time in nature helps us live in the moment as we breathe in the air, listen to the sound of the birds chirping, or feel the grass on our feet. We just need to live each day to its fullest. Don’t forget that…