Trees help clean the air, but they also release a chemical that’s been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and improve immunity when you breathe it in.
In Japan, the practice of immersing yourself in nature is known as Shinrin-yoku, which translates to “forest bathing.” Nature therapy is about intentionally connecting with your natural surroundings to improve your physical and mental health.
There’s never been a better time to get outdoors, and there are plenty of green spaces to enjoy in the greater Philadelphia region. Write yourself a prescription for well-being by scheduling a nature therapy session at one of our local National Parks and recreation areas. Before you go, make sure to find out the park’s current operating hours and safety guidelines:
Five Places to Get Outdoors in Philadelphia and Beyond
- Valley Forge National Park: Step back in time as you hike and bike along nearly 30 miles of trails in Valley Forge National Park, located just outside Philadelphia. You’ll pass by historic buildings, monuments, and memorials honoring the heroes of the Revolutionary War.
- Schuylkill River Valley: Paddle down the Schuylkill River in a kayak or canoe or walk or bike along the Schuylkill River Trail as it winds its way through Southeastern Pennsylvania’s rural, agricultural, suburban, urban, and industrial landscapes.
- Delaware Water Gap: Stretching across Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the Delaware Water Gap offers 100 miles of hiking and biking trails along streams, ridges, and mountaintops, including 27 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Canoeing and kayaking are also healthy ways to enjoy this area’s verdant beauty.
- Brandywine Valley: Located just over the Pennsylvania border in Delaware, visit the Brandywine Valley section of the First State National Historical Park to hike, bike, or run on 18 miles of scenic trails through land that was originally granted to William Penn in the 1600s.
- New Jersey Pinelands: Established by Congress as the country’s first National Reserve, there are one million acres of farms, forests, and wetlands to explore in the New Jersey Pinelands. With more than 850 species of plants, you’ll be sure to get your fill of chlorophyll.
How to Nurture Yourself in Nature
The important thing to remember about nature therapy is that it’s not about creating extra stress in your life. You don’t need to have a specific goal, like hiking 20 miles, to reap the benefits of being outdoors.
It’s about the experience — paying attention to what you see, hear, smell, and feel around you. Follow these simple tips from the American Heart Association to help you relax and nurture yourself in nature.