I’m back from a week of adventuring through Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois. I explored canyons, especially enjoying Jackson Falls, which felt like a butterfly sanctuary the morning I hiked down into it. I swam in Bell Springs and even biked an old railroad line complete with trestles and tunnels. Every day I saw deer, fawn, beautiful birds, and other fun critters.
What struck me most was the reminder of how powerful nature is in creating a sense of peace and calm. It’s astonishing how quickly one can feel awash in such serenity.
The current environment we’re living in – from the pandemic to the reckoning of race relations to the upcoming election – is creating an environment of continual stress. And many of us are physically feeling the effects in various ways that may or may not include our scoliosis, spinal fusions, and other spine issues.
Since we can’t spend every week in a national forest, one simple way to find serenity is to spend 20 minutes a day in a space that provides you with a sense of nature. Research shows that this amount of time significantly reduces the stress hormone cortisol. You can choose the time of day and location but it’s best to avoid internet, social media, phone calls, conversations, and reading. 
“We know that spending time in nature reduces stress, but until now it was unclear how much is enough, how often to do it, or even what kind of nature experience will benefit us,” says Dr. MaryCarol Hunter, an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan and lead author of this research. “Our study shows that for the greatest payoff, in terms of efficiently lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol, you should spend 20 to 30 minutes sitting or walking in a place that provides you with a sense of nature.”
Until my next opportunity to dash away to a national forest or state park, I plan to start a more consistent and regular practice of spending 20 minutes in nearby parks or along the lake path. I hope you’ll join me in this practice!