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Nature is a tonic for stress during coronavirus pandemic | Opinion

The Tennessean (Nashville) logo The Tennessean (Nashville) 4/9/2020 Kathleen Williams-Mooradian, Guest columnist
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Waves of grief and anxiety wash over me. At a time when the world needs a hug, we just can’t. And all the public entertainment is gone – sports, movies, bars and restaurants. Even dining in the home of someone you love puts you at greater risk. I’ve given up seeing my 2-year-old and 6-year-old grandsons.

It's heartbreakingly sad, and everyone is saying the worst is ahead of us. Death will come to some we love. But rebirth is all around us because spring is here and there is resurrection in that green wood. You can still find peace and great joy. Go outside. Go to the woods. Be very present. Let your thoughts pass like the clouds and really see what is here now and your stress will disappear. 

a person posing for the camera: Kathleen Williams-Mooradian © Submitted Kathleen Williams-Mooradian

Unlike those in Italy and China, we are not confined to our homes. We live in a beautiful green garden. This is the blessing. This can be our salvation. Go. Walk around your yard. Yell across the driveway to your neighbor. Decide where you’ll plant your garden. Feel the breeze. Listen to the birds. See the trees reaching upward to the heavens. You can stretch and reach, too. You can put your arms around that tree and hug it. Believe me, it will help you heal. Neuroscientists have studied it. It can also boost your immunity and is a tonic for stress and grief. It could save your life.   

a body of water in front of a lake surrounded by trees: Members of Southminster Presbyterian Church stand before Radnor Lake after the Easter Sunday sunrise service at Radnor Lake State Park Sunday, April 21, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. © Courtney Pedroza/The Tennessean Members of Southminster Presbyterian Church stand before Radnor Lake after the Easter Sunday sunrise service at Radnor Lake State Park Sunday, April 21, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn.

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Jesus went to the mountaintop to pray. Buddha sat under the spreading branches of a fig tree with its heart-shaped leaves. They found the “peace that passeth understanding.” You can, too. 

Water heals. Turn over the rocks and see the life on the underside. Skip a stone. Take your kids fishing. Walk alongside a stream. Listen. The sound of water, the gurgle, babble, splash soothes. So much life abounds it will renew your hope.   

Walk, bicycle, fish, sit, picnic, journal, draw, dig in the dirt, collect leaves, turn off the TV and go today. Just past your stoop. And when you need a bigger outing, keep your distance, but visit a waterfall, a rock house, a cave, a spring, a bluff. There are so many wonderful outdoor distractions. Our state parks and more than 80 natural areas have wonders to astound you.   

Radnor Lake was too crowded one recent day, and some greenways don’t give you enough space for 6 feet of social distancing, so go to the less-crowded parks. One nearby suggestion is Beaman Park. Unlike at Radnor Lake, you can take your pets on the trails. You can picnic. Your kids can walk in the creek. Percy Priest Lake and Old Hickory Lakes offer hundreds of miles of shoreline to keep you at a safe distance from other people. Farther afield, visit Pogue Creek Canyon, Stillhouse Hollow Falls or Twin Arches. Be safe, but find some peace maybe even great joy. 

Kathleen Williams-Mooradian is the retired founding director of the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Nature is a tonic for stress during coronavirus pandemic | Opinion

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