“An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” Thoreau’s words echo throughout the gardens and trails here at Golden Door. As a hike leader for the past 16 years, I continually hear guests say the 6AM hike is their favorite activity. It’s especially dramatic this time of year, when we begin our walk in semi-darkness beneath the glimmer of stars and moonlight, and as we ascend the mountain, the darkness recedes, the sky lightens, and the sun rises.
Thoreau knew how good a morning walk made him feel, without needing science to tell him so. Now we have scientific proof (Harvard Health Letter 2010) that “green” exercise has been proven to lower depression and elevate mood, self-esteem and motivation more than indoor exercise. So it’s no wonder why we feel nurtured by nature. And if you don’t have time to exercise, just being outdoors in natural light is beneficial. Increased time spent indoors along with lighted TV and computer screens contributes to sleep and attention disorders – and for the elderly, accelerated cognitive decline. Studies suggest getting a daily outdoor dose of thirty cumulative minutes, and at the very least, get your ”green fifteen.”
It’s no secret that exercise and diet are key components of aging well, but research has shown that unless we cultivate inner peace and fulfillment through time in nature, healthy relationships and stress management, we will not age well. Practicing meditation and a mindfulness will help cultivate all of these qualities and being in nature is one of the easiest ways to be mindful. Nature makes us slow down and come to our senses, which enables us to notice more and appreciate the simple naked beauty of the ordinary or the imperfect. And when we observe seasonal changes in nature we are better able to let go of what we were in the past and accept each season of our life as it is today.
In autumn – even here in Southern California – fiery-colored trees practically scream at us to go outside. Strive for your daily green dose. Slow down and observe the rhythms of nature. Feel the pulsations of life around you and inside you. Poets and countless others have been extolling nature’s wonders for centuries. Enjoy it, embrace it, and age well in the process.
For more on mindfulness, read “Twelve Mindful Months: Cultivating a Balanced & Fit Body, Mind, & Spirit” by Carol Tibbetts. Stay on the mindful path with me by following my posts.