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This is My Brain on Nature

A Walk in Nature

There is something about walking in the woods that calms me and gets my thoughts flowing. It begins with a slowing down; of my pace, of my mind. Within minutes, the vise grip of the day’s anxieties, worries and frustrations begin to loosen. Even a neighborhood walk has this effect, though it sometimes takes a little longer to shake off the day.

But being in nature—on a dirt path surrounded by trees—lightens and grounds me. For me, it is not always enough to simply be in nature stationary and sedentary. I need motion. I need to wander. It is in the motion of walking that I am able to slough off the weight of the day and let my mind wander, too.

After the initial slowing down of body and mind, my pace begins to pick up on both fronts. I find a steady, comfortable cadence of step. I open my ears to the sounds of the forest, breathe deep the rich, mossy air, and listen for the calls of birds and squirrels. This is when my thoughts clear and begin to ramble.

natThings are feeling hard right now. Your thoughts are jumbled. Put down that glass of wine, this could be your brain on nature tooure

My head never fully quiets, but in nature, I find my thoughts less frantic, less jumbled. It often feels that the motion and fresh air breaks up a clog in my mind that has kept thoughts backed up and swirling around in the same useless pattern like dirty water in a stopped-up sink.

It is amazing where my mind will go as my feet crunch upon trigs and dried leaves. The forest is where I do my best thinking. An unpaved path gives me a clarity I cannot find in an enclosed, manufactured space. I have come to stunning realizations, made important decisions, and solidified the points of heavy discussions I need to have with loved ones while walking forested trails. Allowing myself to walk and breathe and think until my thoughts coalesce is clearly much more effective (not to mention healthier) than brooding over glasses of alcohol.  

So now I find myself in a dark place where something’s gotta give but I just don’t know what that something is yet. I know I’ve got big decisions ahead of me. There are serious talks that need to happen. I can’t stay stuck in this emotional muck forever. It’s time to grab my pack and go for a long walk among the trees.


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Annette Benedetti
Annette Benedetti
Annette is a writer, editor and photographer from Portland, OR. Her work appears in a variety of publications including Bust, Red Tricycle, Motherly and Domino. When she’s away from her desk she can be found teaching women yoga at wilderness retreats, exploring new cities across the states and hiking the trails at Mt. Rainier—one of her favorite places on earth.