By Lauren Roberts
Editor in Chief
I think Ron Swanson from the television show Parks and Rec said it best, “…it’s pointless for a human to paint scenes of nature when they can go outside and stand in it.” As snarky as it sounds, Ron Swanson is speaking a little bit of truth here. Sometimes we look at the beauty of nature on our computer screens or in a magazine, but we don’t get out into the middle of nature to let it heal our bodies as it was designed to do.
Did you know nature is therapeutic for your health, both physically and mentally? Even more so than you might think. There has been groundbreaking research in science and psychology about the subject in the last few years. David Strayer, a neuroscientist at the University of Utah, says, “…we are seeing changes in the brain and changes in the body that suggest we are physically and mentally more healthy when we are interacting with nature.”
Gregory Bratman of Stanford University conducted a study to find out just how much of an impact nature has on your health. He had some participants go for a walk in a natural setting and some in an urban environment. He found that those who walked in the natural setting had more positive feelings and less anxiety than those who walked in the urban setting. Amazing, huh?
There are significant health benefits from being immersed in nature. In fact, there are benefits from going outside for just a short walk. Some of the benefits include lower blood pressure, lower stress levels, reduced inflammation and even the prevention of cancer! Your memory and focus can also drastically improve from spending some time outside. Among all the benefits for your health, it’s just fun to get out and bond with family and friends.
Luckily, Georgia has an excellent park system, so everyone who lives in this state should have excellent health! Our state is abundantly covered in exquisite landscapes from waterfalls to refreshing lakes. Summer is here, and that means it’s time to gather all of your loved ones and head to a nearby park for hours of fun. Hey, Science says we should do it, right? In fact, I will give you a few suggestions if you are looking for something specific.
If you need somewhere to take the little kids for some water and fun in the sun, you can check out the splash pad at Milstead Park in Conyers. This park is a part of a big project to revive the Milstead community. There is a playground on the site as well.
Recently, Costley Mill Park in Conyers opened up to the public. This park is spread out across 77 acres of beautiful landscapes. The park includes a waterfall, a lake beach area for swimming, and playgrounds. This park has a rich history!
In Newton County, just across from the Porterdale Mill Lofts, there is an appealing park alongside the Yellow River. If you follow the trail through the woods, you will find an open field with a disc golf course. In the distance, you will see the Mill tower. The town of Porterdale has a lot of exciting history. At one point in time, the Porterdale Mill was the largest twine mill in the world. The Yellow River is excellent for kayaking during the summer.
If you want to take your family hiking, you can go to Arabia Mountain Park in Lithonia. Arabia Mountain is considered one of the few monadnocks in Georgia, which is a mountain that stands on a predominately flat plain. This park features miles of beautiful hiking trails. One will lead you to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, which is a peaceful place to stop and reflect on life. This park also features a lake in which fishing is permitted. The park is open from dawn until dusk. The best part is that all of this is FREE! There is no charge for trail usage or parking. The park also features bike trails which are a part of the PATH Foundation, and you can ride your bicycle from Arabia Mountain to Panola Mountain which is about 24 miles.
In Sandy Springs, there is Morgan Falls Park. On the property is High Country Outfitters’, Paddle Shack. There you can rent kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddle-boards for an hour or more. The park is alluring with its green fields and sparkling lake water.
Another great find is Swift-Cantrell Park in Kennesaw. There is a skate park, wellness center, splash pad, a dog park and a picnic area. The admission for the splash pad is only $2 per person and kids 2 and under are free!
Of course, there are many parks to choose from in the Metro Atlanta area, but these are some of our favorites. If you would like, you can check out the website for Georgia Department of Natural Resources (https://gastateparks.org/parks). So, pack up the kids, all your fun in the sun gear, and find adventure this summer! Remember, it’s actually the healthy thing to do.