Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Nature Heals

by Therese Daniels, LPC, Certified Nature Informed Therapist

My love for nature and the outdoors began in my childhood — climbing the trees of the local parks, playing hopscotch on the streets in my neighborhood, catching minnows in the nearby stream, and going on countless picnics and hikes with family members. I did not fully recognize the healing aspects of nature until adulthood; it wasn’t until then that I was able to look back and identify the numerous times nature had been an emotional healer for me. Three moments really stand out in my memory. The first time was on a hike with my aunt in the Poconos Mountains when I was nine years old.  The hike was known for having a big waterfall along the way, and waterfalls were my favorite. Well, I fell within the first 5 minutes of the hike and scraped my knee pretty badly. My Aunt offered to turn around and head out, but after a few moments of letting the tears flow, I recall imagining the sound and the vast image of the waterfall, and I breathed in the fresh scent of the pine trees surrounding me. Then I picked myself up and hiked on to find that beauty — and it was well worth it. Nature gave me strength and courage.

The second big occurrence was the summer after I graduated from college. I decided to do some traveling, so I headed out West and landed in Wyoming — living and working in Grand Teton National Park for about 3 months. A small blip of time, but a life-shifting blip of time for me. Something that had dimmed and shut down inside of me during college, and it was re-lit and opened up. Within 48 hours of parking my car in Wyoming, I reconnected with my clarity about who I am and regained my confidence. I had never felt more myself than I did amidst those mountains. Nature gave me a renewed sense of self and courage.

The third memorable experience was in the summer of 2017 when I volunteered for Ronald McDonald Camp for the first time. The camp is held for children who have cancer (or who are in remission from cancer) and their siblings. At the time, I had been going through some things in my personal life that I considered difficult. Being in the middle of the woods with like-minded souls, in rustic cabins facing the elements of nature, with these beautiful, resilient, grateful children was eye-opening and perspective-shifting. The pure joy in these children’s faces, while getting to do the things that “normal” kids get to do all of the time, was nothing short of extraordinary. The conversations that formed naturally while walking from the cabins to the lake to the dining hall were deep and meaningful. It was then that I realized that I had a strong desire to combine my love of nature with my passion for my counseling career. This is where I belonged. Nature gave me motivation, new perspective, and the experience of pure joy.

Nature heals. Just being in nature and breathing in fresh air for as little as five minutes has been shown to lower heart rate, stabilize blood pressure, and decrease the production of stress hormones. A study done by Robert Ulrich in 1984 found that patients recovering from surgery who had bedside windows looking out on leafy trees, healed on average a day faster, needed significantly less pain medication, and had fewer post-surgical complications than patients who instead saw a brick wall. These are just a few of the numerous facts out there that identify the healing aspects of nature. People have generally become more “heads down” than “heads up,” constantly scrolling through social media, “snapping” friends, sending group texts, sorting emails, etc.… instead of looking up at the sky, admiring the trees, naming the shapes in the clouds, and counting the stars. It is believed that one of the reasons nature is so beneficial to our physical and psychological well-being is rooted in our biology. Our ancestors evolved in wild settings and relied on the environment for survival, so we have an innate drive to connect with nature. Being in nature regulates and resets our nervous system to its true natural state, free from all of the distractions of our modern world. So, I encourage you to get back outside, soak in the beauty and benefits of the outdoors, and get back to your roots!  Here's How:


The term re-wilding in relation to humans means to revert to a natural or untamed state of being. It is the process of reawakening our connection to nature and unearthing a more true, more wild, more holistic way of life that centers around nature and simplistic living. Some of the simplest ways you can do this are to go barefoot and sit on the ground. Take off your shoes and walk in the grass, dirt, or sand. Put away the picnic blanket and sit straight on the earth and feel the grass on your skin. And just breathe.

Sit Spot

Go for a short walk and find an easily accessible spot in nature where you can sit for at least 10 minutes a day. It can be under a tree, by a stream, on a park bench, or in your own backyard. It is best if it can be somewhere you can access easily, so it can be part of your daily routine (or as many days of the week as possible). Sit for 10-30 minutes and read a book, write in a journal, meditate, or simply breath. Use your senses to absorb the environment surrounding you.

Nature heals! Summer is approaching so get out there and take advantage of the medicine that is right at our fingertips whenever we want it!

Therese M. Daniels, MA, LPC has been in the mental health field for 20 years. She provides individual, couples, and family counseling for children, teens, and adults. She offers regular nature walks to introduce people to nature-informed therapy — and believes in the power of nature to support healing. She specializes in anxiety, depression, self-esteem, life transitions, and more. Learn more at / and Contact her at or 410-919-9673.