This time of year almost everyone feels some kind of depression or stress. It’s inevitable. The clouds barely part, it seems like there's an unending stream of negative news on TV, and we are spending most of our time cooped up inside. Don’t get me wrong, I can look at photos of tropical islands all day long, but it doesn’t make me feel better. It makes me wish I had extra vacation time and the money to take a trip to the islands. I don’t and if you’re anything like me, you don’t either. So, what’s a gal or guy to do?
You can take a hike, literally not figuratively. According to a Stanford University study, research found evidence that walking in nature actually lowers your risk for depression. Cheating isn’t allowed. Walking around an urban area didn’t get the same results as strolling through a field or forest so, you’ll actually have to find a forest preserve near you. Of course my favorite place to visit is Brookfield Zoo and we’re located on Forest Preserve of Cook County land, so a quick trip to the zoo is always a good way to tackle depression. This amazing partnership allows local nature and the preservation of species to happen all in one place! More forest preserves aren’t hard to find, but I don’t want any excuses so, here are some links to help you out:
Forest Preserves of Cook County
Forest Preserve District of Will County
Forest Preserve District of Dupage County
Lake County Forest Preserves
Forest Preserve District of Kane County
If a Stanford study isn’t good enough, you can always turn to Harvard who tracked female nurses over an 8 year period and found that the women who had regular access to green areas near where they work or live had a 12% lower mortality rate than women who spent most of their time in sprawling urban areas.
And finally, if Ivy League schools aren’t your cup of tea, the University of Minnesota says you need to get outside, too. Being out in nature not only does wonders for your mental state, but it also lowers your blood pressure, lowers your heart rate, relaxes our muscles, and reduces your stress hormones.
Science says a trip outside will help almost as much as that beach vacation I was dreaming of earlier. Looks like I’ll stay in Chicagoland, bundle up, and visit a forest preserve. I’ll save my vacation time and money, too.