Improve Your Mental Health by Connecting with Nature
Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2023

Improve Your Mental Health by Connecting with Nature

If you’ve been feeling out of sorts lately—maybe a bit grumpy, irritable, or just plain stressed—you’ll be happy to learn that there’s a medically proven solution that doesn’t require an appointment or a prescription. In fact, it’s right outside your door.

More and more research is showing that interacting with nature is one of the best ways to improve your mental and physical health. Numerous studies conducted across the globe support the idea that spending time engaged with nature helps to lower blood pressure, reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, support mental and emotional health, improve sleep, boost immunity, and even help with short-term memory. 

To receive the health benefits of nature, some studies point to 90-minute exposures, perhaps in the form of a walk, gardening, or even just sitting outdoors. Others say 20 minutes will do the trick, and others who suggest that looking at photos of nature or keeping a plant on your desk will bestow the same benefits.

The common factor across all findings appears to be making time to simply unplug from what you are doing and take a moment to engage your senses to appreciate the natural world. From bird songs and breezes to the feel of grass under your feet, or the interesting shape of a leaf or flower, allowing yourself to appreciate what nature provides can help you find a sense of calm and peace.

So, next time you feel your stress rising and someone tells you to take a hike, simply say, “Don’t mind if I do!”

 

Get Outside & Get Happy

Here are just a few of the many outdoor walking, hiking, and biking opportunities you can access for free.
 
Vermont

Bennington Area Trail System (BATS) 

Accessible from five different parking areas in Bennington 

A network of 14 trails totaling 8 miles and ranging from beginner to expert level difficulty. Pets allowed but must be leashed.  

www.BATSVT.org

 

Bennington College Blue Trail 

1 College Drive, Bennington 

A 2.5-mile network of easy trails. Pets allowed but must be leashed. 

www.trailfinder.info/trails/trail/bennington-college-trails

 

Greenberg Headwaters Park 

Belvedere Street, Bennington 

A 2.5-mile network of easy trails. Pets allowed but must be leashed. 

www.benningtonvt.org 

 

Mile-Around Woods 

Woods Lane, North Bennington 

A 4.9-mile network of easy trails. Pets allowed but must be leashed. 

www/northbennington.org/mile-around/ 

 

 

Equinox Highlands Natural Area 

1599 3 Maple Drive, Manchester   

A moderate 1.5-mile loop trail. 

www.alltrails.com/trail/us/vermont/pew-forest-trail 

 

The Equinox Preserve 

Access points at the Equinox Hotel (trailhead at parking lot), the Southern Vermont Arts Center (access limited to hours of operation), and Burr and Burton Academy West Union Street parking lot  

An 11.2-mile network of easy to moderate trails. Pets allowed but must be leashed. 

www.equinoxpreservationtrust.org 

 

Hoot, Toot & Whistle Trail 

Reardon’s Crossing  

An easy 3.8-mile out-and-back trail. Pets allowed but must be leashed. 

www.alltrails.com/trail/us/vermont/hoot-toot-and-whistle-trail 

 
Massachusetts

The Cascade Trail 

North Adams

An easy 2.2-mile out-and-back trail. Pets allowed but must be leashed. 

www.alltrails.com/trail/us/massachusetts/the-cascades-trail 

 

Hoosac Range Trail 

Route 2 (parking next to Wigwam Cabins) 

Features two trail options ranging from an easy 1.6 miles to a rigorous 6 miles. 

www.bnrc.org/trails-and-maps/top-berkshire-trails/hoosac-range/ 

 

Mountain Meadow Preserve Trail 

Mason Street, Williamstown

An easy 4.3-mile loop trail. Pets allowed but must be leashed. 

www.thetrustees.org/place/mountain-meadow-preserve/  

 

 

Field Farm Trail 

554 Sloan Road 

An easy 2.4-mile loop trail. Pets allowed but must be leashed. 

www.thetrustees.org/place/field-farm-guest-house/ 

 
New York

The Cambridge Community Forest 

15 Rockside Drive, Cambridge

An expanding network of easy to moderate trails. Pets allowed but must be leashed.  

www.facebook.com/CambridgeCommunityForest

 

Hoosic River Greenway

Hoosick Falls

Access points on Church and Lower Classic Streets, the end of Waterworks Road, and Sewer Plant Road 

An easy 2.5-mile end-to-end trail. Pets allowed and must be leashed.  

www.hoosicrivergreenway.org

 

Allison Niemi, MD is a member of the care team at the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center Pownal Campus.

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