Retreating to nature for my mental and physical health

When was the last time you took a break for just yourself? When did you slip away to your favorite spot and just rest? Do you even have a place where you can retreat to when life just gets too much for your brain to handle?

Do you escape into the adventures of a book? Do you meditate? Do you put on the headphones and let your mind wander to the tunes of your favorite musical artist?

I have found the need to venture into my peaceful place more and more lately. If the weather is less than ideal or it's late at night, the relaxing music of the Piano Guys has done wonders for my soul. I will listen to them on an endless loop, letting the worshipful tones of the cello and piano take my mind away from what ever that day's stresses are.

Living within walking distance of the Fox River is a joy, so when weather permits and even sometimes when it doesn't, I make a beeline for what has become one of my favorite places on this planet. It is a small stretch of creek that empties out into the Fox River and it's just steps away from downtown suburbia. What makes this place even better is that this little piece of Heaven on Earth is just a couple miles from my apartment.

If you know me at all, you will know that I enjoy nature. I have a deep love for wildlife, even the creepy crawly ones. I find the same joy in spotting and handling wild snakes as I do when I have the honor of seeing a mink taking a dip in the creek.

Each trip down to the creek is a venture into the unknown. Every time I walk along the shore of the Fox River or dip my feet in the cool water of the creek, it is a different experience. In the past few years, I have seen animals and insects I have never seen before.

"You can never visit the same place twice. Each time, it's a different story." - author Maureen Johnson

I treasure the moments and conversations I have with people of all ages while out on the river, whether it is helping educate them on the importance of the native snakes or holding a tiny Spiny Softshell Turtle for a young child to see for the first time. I often joke that this place is my anti-depression medication. But, that isn't far from the truth. More often than not, my physical and mental well being are drastically improved after an hour or so out in the wild.

Science, got to love science, has proven what I have found empirically. Countless studies have concluded that time spent outside impacts our body in positive ways.

Connecting with nature can increase dopamine levels in the brain which in turn helps reduce pain.  Being out in natural settings not only makes you feel better emotionally, but it also contributes to your physical well being by reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.

Some studies have even said that just taking a break in a quiet room and looking at pictures of natural settings can boost cognitive functions.

So with all this in mind, I wanted to share just a look at my little piece of Heaven. I hope that at least for the next four minutes, you can find a bit of relaxation.

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    Meggan Sommerville

    Meggan Sommerville is a Christian transgender woman with a heart for educating others about the transgender community and her faith in her Savior, Jesus Christ. Her career life has taken her on a variety of adventures, from being a veterinary technician in the Western burbs of Chicago to being an EMT/Paramedic, EMS instructor, and a paid on call firefighter for Bolingbrook , Illinois. Since 1998, she has been the frame shop manager for a national craft retailer. You can contact Meggan via email at Meg.Sommerville@aol.com or find her on Facebook at Trans Girl at the Cross

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