These free, self-guided outings are a way to improve mental health
To recognize mental health awareness and make it easier to de-stress outdoors, Five Rivers MetroParks has established four Mindfulness Walks. Visitors will find signage along these short, easy walks inviting them to stop and engage in a variety of simple breathing and meditation activities. The mindfulness activities can be done not only in the designated MetroParks but in any outdoor space.
“Spending time outdoors is a great way to stay active and improve your physical health, but time in nature improves mental wellbeing, too,” said Amy Dingle, MetroParks’ director of outdoor connections. “Connecting to your five senses, practicing mindful breathing and listing the things that bring you gratitude are tools that help build resiliency and wellbeing. The new Mindfulness Walks are a self-guided opportunity to help people learn how to use these tools and spend time in nature to reduce stress.”
Research shows that just 20 minutes a day immersed in nature significantly lowers stress hormone levels. Indeed, the mental health benefits of spending time in nature have been well documented and include better sleep; enhanced mood and feelings of relaxation; lower depression and anxiety; enhanced cognitive abilities, such as memory, creativity and problem solving; improved self-esteem and relationships; and strengthened immunity and a reduction in chronic illnesses, such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
“Mindfulness means putting all of your attention on one thing. It means taking the time to really notice what you are doing in that moment. You are focused in a very relaxed way,” said John Duby, a physician with Dayton Children’s and professor and chair of Wright State University’s Boonshoft School of Medicine department of pediatrics. “Spending time in nature gives us a great chance to be mindful of all our senses, to focus on our surroundings, and respond to what we see, hear, touch and smell. Practicing mindfulness can help us learn to pay better attention in all of our daily lives. For me, Dogwood Pond at Hills & Dales MetroPark is a great place to relax.”
The following are several new Mindfulness Walks to consider.
Eastwood MetroPark at 1385 Harshman Rd. (park entrance) or 4349 Springfield St: Walk on the natural surface trail along the perimeter of the lagoon. Near the Springfield Street entrance, take the stone bridges to the islands in the lagoon. While you’re at the park, you can also walk the brown trail through the prairie and the blue trail along the Mad River — which is a portion of the Buckeye Trail and North Country National Scenic Trail — as well as the paved Mad River Trail.
Huffman MetroPark at 4439 Lower Valley Pike: Park near the overlook shelter and take the short natural surface trail toward Huffman Dam. Continue across the dam for scenic views and a connection with the paved Mad River Trail. If Huffman Lake isn’t flooded, you can hike natural surface trails along the lake and Mad River.
Possum Creek MetroPark at 4790 Frytown Rd: Park in the Argonne Forest lot, the first right-hand turn after you enter Possum Creek. Hike the 1.5-mile pink trail and/or the 1-mile blue trail, both of which can be accessed from the parking lot. Possum Creek is home to a robust network of natural surface trails, fishing ponds, horseback riding trails, a small farm and other amenities that allow you to explore the outdoors. Note: The blue trail Mindfulness Walk is also available as an outing in MetroParks’ mobile app, powered by OuterSpatial. Visit metroparks.org/mobile for more.
Sunrise MetroPark at 50 N. Edwin C. Moses Blvd: This linear park, located along the west bank of the Great Miami River, offers great views of the downtown skyline. Look for the Mindfulness Walk signage near the park benches and along the steps leading down to the river. Continue your walk along the paved Great Miami River and Wolf Creek trails.
Five Rivers MetroParks is a nationally renowned park system composed of natural area parks, gardens, high-quality river corridors, urban parks and a network of recreation trails. Five Rivers MetroParks protects the region’s natural heritage and provides outdoor experiences that inspire a personal connection with nature.