Sheila Camarena lives her life on the edge as she basks in the beauty of Lake Tahoe. | Photo courtesy of Sheila Camarena

Improving One’s Health Within The Trees

How being in nature improves mental health

Rosa Granados is a member of Women’s Cross Country at Humboldt State University and found when problems arise, doing something with her time was helpful.

“I started running when there was something crucial going on in my life, running helped me find my home,” Granados said.

According to pilot studies published in the “Journal of Adolescence,” outdoor activities can improve one’s overall health.

Granados was raised in foster care, a difficult experience for her, but was able to find a family with the members of her running team and a passion for running which positively impacted her health. Running was a place for her to disengage from stressful situations and focus on the peaceful environment of nature.

“It’s very important for everyone to practice self-care and expand one’s own definition of wellness,” Granados said.

Granados enjoys hiking through the forests of Humboldt and the calmness of nature. It was a great place to disconnect from society as there was often a lack of cell reception. This caused her to feel present in the moment.

Enjoying nature helped Granados cope with depressing situations and accept life experiences that she couldn’t control.

According to an article published in the journal “Perspectives in Public Health”, “Using a combination of arts- and nature-based activities, present distinct synergistic benefits that have the potential to make a significant impact on the psychosocial wellbeing of adult mental health service users.”

Granados’ job at Harm Reduction at HSU was about helping others with their mental health and trauma.

In order to maintain Granados’ job with care, it was important for her to take care of her own mental health and wellbeing.

Sheila Camerarena had a similar life experience to Granados.

“Being a social worker can be very draining and I always have to remember that I need to take care of my needs first before I can help others,” Camerona said.

Camerona also had a hard time at home. She found herself having to grow up very fast, taking a massive toll on her.

“Knowing these difficulties I had at home is what led me to nature, it was like an escape,” Camerona said.

Growing up, she found peace with bike riding throughout her neighborhood and grew up to become a lover of hiking.

Nature helped Camerena get in touch with her spirituality and culture, it gave her a sense of connection with the world around her that she always wanted to find.

Several studies have suggested that having a deep connection to spirituality can lead to a more positive well-being. According to the article “Enhancing Spirituality and Positive Well-Being Through Nature,” a study by Stringer and McAvoy wrote exposure to nature can lead an individual to connect to something greater, increasing their cognitive abilities and creative abilities.

Similar to Camerarena and Granados, Annika Slattery was also searching for a home. Fresh from Hawaii and stepping foot in Arcata for the first time in her life, Slattery wasn’t sure if this was the place for her.

Slattery was planning on getting her degree and moving back to Hawaii, however, things changed when she fell in love with the environment at Humboldt State University.

“I started learning about my awesome major and it was everything I wanted,” Slattery said.

Slattery is a recreational studies major and fell in love with forest bathing, being outdoors, and enjoying nature with her fellow classmates.

She focused on recreational tourism and backpacking trips with classmates, from rafting trips to beautiful hikes in the forest.

Being outside, enjoying nature, and being disconnected from the world for ten to fifteen minutes, Slattery not only found her home but developed a family bond within her major.

“With this pandemic, I felt very contained and that my life had shifted into this box, I never realized how being outdoors could greatly improve your mental state,” Slattery said.

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