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Nurturing Mental Health By Walking in Nature and Seeking Support Services

Tourism and Mental Health Advocate take over, Lyzbeth King, May 2024

Edna W. Spurgeon Woodland Reserve -path in Ligonier, IN
Edna W. Spurgeon Woodland Reserve - ACRES Land Trust

Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month, observed every May, serves as a crucial platform to raise awareness about mental health issues, promote understanding, and advocate for support and resources. Its significance lies in fostering open conversations, reducing stigma, and encouraging individuals to prioritize their mental well-being. This blog will highlight the connection between nature and tourism, list some events and attraction sites that can improve mental health, and then list some mental health support services in Noble County.

Walking in natural environments is associated with better mental health (Zijlema, 2018). During walking, there is the potential to breathe and breathe harder. People typically breathe in and out to stay calm in tense situations. Not enough attention is paid to certain activities like breathing because we mostly do it without thinking too much about it. Breathing in through the nostrils and out through the mouth may be considered as a normal breathing process which may be taken for granted most of the time by a lot of people because it is likely to be done with little or no effort and sometimes at no fee. However, the process of hard breathing in and out is not only beneficial for blood pressure but has been proven to be very effective in reducing stress levels (Ashley, 2019).

Just being able to walk in nature allows people to take a moment to enjoy beautiful creations like flowers, the singing of birds, the soft wind that walks gently on our skin, and those colorful butterflies that sometimes land on our shoulders to say “hello”.

We experience positive emotions like laughter, smiles, and being amazed by the naturally beautiful environment. These moments of positive emotions help relaxation by moving us away from the stress and anxiety resulting from the demanding nature of our daily lives. Being able to relax aids in making positive decisions because of the ability to concentrate.

Garden at Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site in Rome City, IN
The Cabin in Wildflower Woods, at Gene Stratton Porter Sate Historic Site

Beyond reducing stress, providing relaxation, and eliciting positive emotions, walking in nature has been shown to provide healing to individuals who have been diagnosed with clinical depression (MacNamee, 2016; Nisbet & Lem, 2015). Personally, I have walked out of academic stress a lot of times by taking a break to walk in nature. In those moments, I always get back to my seat feeling refreshed and with a clearer mind. The benefits of walking and generally being in nature are highlighted by John Burroughs, who was an American naturalist. He stated, “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”

Noble County offers various trails and parks that encourage “walking in nature” to promote improved mental well-being. Most of these assets are either free or at a very reduced fee for specific activities and parking. Examples include the Chain O’ Lakes State Park, Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site, Albion Parks, Ligonier Parks, Noble Trails, Strawberry Valley Cultural Trail, Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center, Bixler Lake, and the Mid-America Windmill Museum. Noble County Trails is open every day from dawn to dusk. The grounds of the Mid America Windmill Museum are open on Mondays from dawn to dusk and you can go in for free to listen to the windmills talk. This is a good opportunity to relax and meditate.

Overlooking Bixler Lake and path.
Bixler Lake Park, Kendallville IN

Consider participating in events like the Bixler Lake Walk on May 20th from 10 - 11 am and the Gene-Stratton Porter Walk on May 21st and May 28th from 1- 2 pm. These events are aimed at encouraging intentional breathing and meditation. You can find this event and more by clicking the button below.

Think about signing up now for the “Stomp Out the Stigma 5K Run/Walk” which will take place at Bixler Lake Park on September 7th at 10 am. More information on this event can be accessed through their website!

In conclusion, mental health is as important as physical health. We can all come together to reduce it by being intentional about the natural ways we can adopt to improve our mental health such as taking a walk in nature from time to time. Again, being open to conversations and seeking the necessary help will help maintain a stronger mental health. Remember that your health does not only affect you, but it affects the people around you and the entire community. Visit us at Noble County, where nature will rejuvenate you.

Main entrance of the Parkview Hospital in Kendallville, IN.
Parkview Hospital System North (Kendallville)

Additional Resources for Mental Health Services in Noble County

Please share your experiences with nature and mental health this month and beyond to encourage someone to improve their mental health and well-being.

Mental Health Support Services Available in Noble County

  • Northeastern Center, Inc.                          220 S Main St, Kendallville IN 46755   Phone (260) 347-2453   Crisis (800) 790-0118

  • Bowen Health Clinic – Albion

Fax: (260) 636-3392

  • Parkview Noble Hospital

401 Sawyer Rd

Kendallville, IN 46755

Phone: (260) 347-8700


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