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Walk in the park improves health

Keith Wommack | Oct 8, 2015, 11:59 a.m.
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Throughout history, moments spent strolling through floral paths, even planting vegetable and herb gardens, have been found to be therapeutic.

A Health & Science article in The Washington Post put a spotlight on the benefits of nature moments. It examined Robert Zarr’s “innovative community health program,” DC Parks Rx, which is “committed to combating the woes of urban living by prescribing time outdoors.”

Zarr, a pediatrician, is convinced that a “growing body of scientific evidence” indicates “that many of the chronic scourges of city life can be prevented or alleviated by reconnecting with nature.”

How does communing with nature help?

Studies on ecotherapy are showing that spending time outside provides help to those suffering with physical illnesses. You might conclude that refreshing breezes and beautiful views are distractions from the stresses and fears that cause depression and many illnesses. Yet, there is more to it.

I believe that a walk in the park isn’t just a walk in the park. There is something seemingly magical but spiritually natural behind the advantages of what we experience outdoors. Nature’s beauty can represent the presence of a creative intelligence. The majesty, peace, and vitality of nature help remind us of the divine order and harmony of life.

Author, teacher, and religious leader, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “Arctic regions, sunny tropics, giant hills, winged winds, mighty billows, verdant vales, festive flowers, and glorious heavens, — all point to [the divine] Mind, the spiritual intelligence they reflect.”

If nature — really, all of life — expresses spiritual wisdom, shouldn’t the definition of “stepping outside” be expanded? What if the benefits of a stroll in nature signaled the advantages of moving thought beyond a confining sense of existence? A paradigm shift from a fragile focus to a sturdy spiritual focus has already been shown to cause emotional and physical changes for the better.

A friend of mine experienced such a transformation.

One month before her wedding, Susanne was struck by a car. At the hospital, where she was taken, doctors said she had abrasions and contusions as well as a broken left collarbone. However, because she’d experienced the power of prayer to heal in her past, Susanne chose to merely have the wounds cleaned. Then she was released to go home.

Once home, she asked a Christian Science practitioner for treatment through prayer. The contusions and abrasions healed very quickly, and no traces were visible when she and her husband married.

The collarbone, however, did not heal so quickly. Susanne was able to function, but decided to go to an orthopedist who told her that it was necessary to pin the fracture since the bone was not mending on its own.

After meeting with the doctor, she went outside. She was frustrated that she wasn’t seeing progress. But as she walked outside, she had a turn of thought.

She reconnected with the beautiful nature of Mind, God. She felt more of God’s complete control over her experience. She could sense that her health, as part of the beautiful universe, was an ordered state of this divine Mind.

From that moment, the healing came quickly. Within a few days the collarbone mended, without any pinning. It has never been sensitive to changes in weather, as the orthopedist had predicted, nor has she experienced limitations with her weight training she’s enjoyed for years.

David, the Psalmist, must have known that God surrounds us with His beauty and care. He wrote, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul [my spiritual sense of things].”

A walk outside allows us to recognize that, ultimately, each created thing, from the least to the greatest, is stunningly real, when we learn to regard it from a spiritual viewpoint.

Again, history shows that time spent in lush meadows and floral paths has been therapeutic. Today, we find why stepping outside can improve health.

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Keith Wommack is a syndicated health blogger and a Christian Science teacher and practitioner. This post was originally published on the Houston Chronicle. Follow him on twitter @keithwommack.

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