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  • Writer's pictureHeather Winia

The Healing Power of Nature!

I absolutely LOVE being outdoors!

If you know me, I am bare foot as much as possible, walking around enjoying the feel of the grass below my feet. I love to work in my yard and YES, I love to pick weeds! I enjoy planting flowers, watching the bees pollinate the plants and listen to the birds' harmonious specialized songs. It's so interesting to watch the trees go from flowering buds to luscious green then on to color changing leaves in the fall. I also see so much beauty in the pristine white snow resting on the bare branches of the trees in winter, it is truly gorgeous. Yes, cold, sometimes freezing cold but still gorgeous. I live in Michigan, so I get to enjoy all four seasons, each of them bringing their own beauty and unique opportunities to be in nature in different ways. I, truly, LOVE it all.

These are some of the reasons I lead outdoor fitness classes of all kinds, all year long. They are also the added benefits many of my participants speak about after attending the classes. One of my students says these classes have helped her so much with loving the outdoors no matter what the weather and has showed her many different and unique ways to move, not only in her body but in her surroundings too. Last night she said “YES, I LIKE WINTER NOW TOO!” Many people in Michigan complain a lot about winter, but we do not have too!

Committing to a class and meeting a group of people will help all of us get out in nature more often, no matter what the weather. I have a famous saying among my outdoor fitness students and that is….”there is no bad weather, just bad clothing!” In the over 25 years I have been leading outdoor fitness classes, I have rarely cancelled class for weather reasons. Maybe a hail storm or below zero temperatures, but really we can almost always make it work and not give in to the excuses. We can wear another layer of clothing or we can change the location to the beach if it’s really hot out and simply get in the water. We can get wet in the rain and we will not melt :-). Too many of us are really good at making every excuse in the book for not getting our exercise in for the day/week and my goal with outdoor fitness classes is to help us not do that anymore. Together, we get to experience the fun in fitness, to take advantage of the healing power of nature and find friends who support each other enjoying doing the same things.

For me, the fresh air breathes life into my body. The vast and wide open skies remind me of the abundant and endless possibilities available to me each and every day. The warmth of the sun on my body is like a deeply nourishing hug from the heavens above. There would be no life without sunshine! Yes, we can be smart about sun exposure, but avoiding this life-giving element is detrimental to our health.

My daughters and I used to say…”I love you THIS__________MUCH” and we would stretch our arms out as wide as we could. Then over the years, that statement shifted and grew even bigger. We would say…”I love you all the leaves on all the trees in the forest”! Or “I love you all the stars in the sky on a clear night up north”! Or “I love you all the specks of sand on all the beaches in the whole wide world”! It became a fun little competition back and forth to see who could create the most vast feeling of LOVE in their statement and in this game, we were all always winners. No matter what, we knew in our hearts it was a MASSIVE amount of love. I just realized all of our statements were of natural things in this world. So vast and so full of positive, life-giving, love-giving energy!

The sights, sounds, smells and feels aliven my senses daily. The color palette nature gives us is the most gorgeous canvas of life I have ever seen. The continuous seasonal cycle of life and death proves to me that growth is always possible. Healing and rebirth are always possible, no matter the prior circumstance or current situation. Connecting to and being with the natural energy earth provides has been studied to have numerous benefits. Grounding, also called Earthing, is a therapeutic technique that involves doing activities that “ground” or electrically reconnect you to the earth. This practice relies on earthing science and grounding physics to explain how electrical charges from the earth can have positive effects on your body.

I’ve been feeling led to share this specific story from my own experience because I know that it was powerful for us and hopefully you can share this with someone else who may need to hear it. Several years ago, one of my daughters was experiencing heavy depression and suicidal thoughts. This particular instance, she phoned me saying she had just got off the phone with the suicide hotline and explained that she was deeply struggling. I was not home at the moment and could not get close to her quickly and she would not let anyone else near her to help. I took a deep breath and said, “Honey, I want you to go home, I will be there as quickly as I can. I want you to go straight to the backyard and sit in the garden….right in the dirt with your bare legs.” (electrical charges from the earth can have positive effects on the body.) I know that she likes the garden and also loves to pick weeds. The only thing I could think of to help her in that moment was to get her in nature. To ground her energy with the amazing energy of the earth. The dirt, the sun, the greenery and the fresh air. I knew how healing it could be and I hoped with my whole heart that this would work. She said ok. Then about 10 minutes later called me back. “Mom, can I chop some wood?” I asked her “where are you?” She said, “sitting in the garden.” I inquired, “how are you feeling?” She solemnly replied, “OK” So I thought about her question for a minute...truly one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my whole life. Do I let my child who is experiencing suicidal thoughts pick up a huge axe and chop wood?

I continued my conversation with her and asked “Honey, if I let you chop wood, do you promise to be extra careful and not hurt yourself?” You see, I knew deep down that moving her body in this way would have a healing effect. Exercising, running, kicking a punching bag or chopping wood all help to release tension, stress and strain in the body and the brain. They are the most healthful ways to deal with these types of situations. She replied “Yes I do” and hung up the phone. Now, I am trying to get myself home as fast as I can to check on her and be with her but I was still about 20 minutes away. All I could do was drive safely, pray graciously and trust God to watch over her. I have a strong faith and believe in the power of all natural things that are available to us….love, trust and an entire amazing universe in which we are blessed to take part!

When I drove up to the house, I quickly walked back to the garden and found her kneeling in the dirt, picking weeds. I looked to my right and saw many larger logs chopped into smaller pieces and the axe laying on the ground. I said, “Hi honey”. She turned to look at me and she smiled. A little smile, but a relaxed one, a soft one, a smile that meant she was feeling a little bit better. WOW, what an amazing relief that was for me and I know for her as well. For us, this is proof that nature can and does heal!!

Nature provides so much beauty, we just need to open our eyes and see it! Nature provides so much life, we just need to get out there and be in it! Nature also gifts us so much healing, if and only if we choose to take advantage of its restorative, therapeutic power that is free of charge and abundantly available to us right outside our front doors. More time in nature equals deeper health benefits all around.

Are you spending enough time outdoors?

Join me this summer, I’d love to share it all with you!

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