This time of year you’ll hear the words “Happy New Year”.   My wish for you is not only for happiness, but the physical, mental, spiritual well-being, creativity, tranquility, sense of wonder, and other benefits of being in nature.  It’s something I call nature’s euphoria, others call it  “Vitamin G”,  (for Green space)  or Vitamin N (for Nature).   My wish is for everyone, but especially children and those who have experienced very little of nature’s euphoria. 

Many scientific studies have shown the benefits of being out  in nature,  and we probably experienced many without knowing it.  After learning more at a  “Healing Nature” symposium at The Chicago Botanic Garden, reading the article  “Take Two Hours of Pine Forest and Call Me in the Morning” ,  and experiencing the benefits of nature myself,  I’m  encouraging you to read more about this subject, but more importantly,  I’m hoping you get out there!!! 

A sea of Virginia Blue Bells at Knock Knolls Park in Naperville, March 2012 (our very early spring)! Even my dog is happier!

Getting our Vitamin N at Knock Knolls Park in Naperville, walking through the sea of Virginia Bluebells. Even my dog has a smile! 

In our fast paced, instantaneous, multi-tasking , techno-gadget world, being in nature helps us slow down, pay attention, and improves our memory.  To get the full benefits of nature, we have to experience nature first hand and be “present in it”.  Yes, put away your smart phone or ear plugs, for a little while.

The Outside Magazine article linked above says even a walk on a bad weather day has benefits. If it’s below freezing in winter, my husband has to coax me to spend some time in nature,  but afterwards,  I always feel refreshed, energized, and happier.

Even the  sweet scent of a prairie and other nature scents have many benefits according to ongoing studies.  I love the sweet smell of a prairie on a breezy day or a woodland just after a rainfall, don’t you?  There’s even a name for this wonderful scent: petrichor.  Just recalling these wonderful scents as I write this blog makes me feel more relaxed.

I also think if more people actually spent time in nature,  more folks would work harder to protect it.  Folks might even be kinder, something we need now more than ever, since studies show being in nature improves empathy and patience.  I know this is true since some of my fellow nature buddies are the nicest people around!

You don’t need travel very far to find nature. Illinois Nature Preserves  are some of  my favorite places to visit.  If you’re new or want some company, start out with group outing or participate in a volunteer workday led by your local forest preserve or conservation organization staff or volunteers! Also check out Rachel Carson’s  Sense of Wonder”, a guide to spending time in nature with children.

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