De-stressing in nature: Five River MetroParks offers options during Mental Health Awareness Month

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DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, Five Rivers MetroParks is making it easier for community members to de-stress through nature. The MetroParks has developed four ‘Mindfulness Walks’ throughout the Miami Valley, located at Eastwood, Huffman, Possum Creek, and Sunrise MetroParks.

On each trail, visitors will find signage inviting them to engage in practices that are known to help relieve stress, including breathing exercises and meditation activities.

Director of outdoor connections for the organization, Amy Dingle, said, “Spending time outdoors is a great way to stay active and improve your physical health, but time in nature improves mental wellbeing, too. Connecting to your five senses, practicing mindful breathing and listing the things that bring you gratitude are tools that help build resiliency and wellbeing. The new Mindfulness Walks are a self-guided opportunity to help people learn how to use these tools and spend time in nature to reduce stress.”

Research has shown that the benefits of spending time in nature are plentiful, including better sleep, decreased feelings of depression and anxiety, enhanced cognitive abilities including memory, and a reduction in chronic illnesses, to name a few.

Experts at Dayton Children’s and Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services designed each trail with those benefits in mind.

“Mindfulness means putting all of your attention on one thing. It means taking the time to really notice what you are doing in that moment. You are focused in a very relaxed way,” said John Duby, a physician with Dayton Children’s and professor and chair of Wright State University’s Boonshoft School of Medicine department of pediatrics. “Spending time in nature gives us a great chance to be mindful of all our senses, to focus on our surroundings, and respond to what we see, hear, touch and smell. Practicing mindfulness can help us learn to pay better attention in all of our daily lives. For me, Dogwood Pond at Hills & Dales MetroPark is a great place to relax.”

More tips and recommendations for mindfulness at each location can be found below.

  • Eastwood MetroPark: 1385 Harshman Rd. (park entrance) or 4349 Springfield St.
    • Walk on the natural surface trail along the perimeter of the lagoon.
    • Near the Springfield Street entrance, take the stone bridges to the islands in the lagoon.
    • While you’re at the park, you can also walk the brown trail through the prairie and the blue trail along the Mad River — which is a portion of the Buckeye Trail and North Country National Scenic Trail — as well as the paved Mad River Trail.
  • Huffman MetroPark, 4439 Lower Valley Pike
    • Park near the overlook shelter and take the short natural surface trail toward Huffman Dam.
    • Continue across the dam for scenic views and a connection with the paved Mad River Trail.
    • If Huffman Lake isn’t flooded, you can hike natural surface trails along the lake and Mad River.
  • Possum Creek MetroPark, 4790 Frytown Rd.
    • Park in the Argonne Forest lot, the first right-hand turn after you enter Possum Creek.
    • Hike the 1.5-mile pink trail and/or the 1-mile blue trail, both of which can be accessed from the parking lot.
    • Possum Creek is home to a robust network of natural surface trails, fishing ponds, horseback riding trails, a small farm and other amenities that allow you to explore the outdoors.
    • Note: The blue trail Mindfulness Walk is also available as an outing in MetroParks’ mobile app, powered by OuterSpatial. Visit metroparks.org/mobile for more.
  • Sunrise MetroPark, 50 N. Edwin C. Moses Blvd.
    • This linear park, located along the west bank of the Great Miami River, offers great views of the downtown skyline.
    • Look for the Mindfulness Walk signage near the park benches and along the steps leading down to the river.
    • Continue your walk along the paved Great Miami River and Wolf Creek trails.

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