Letter: Healing benefits of being in nature

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To the editor:

Because the Berkshires is home to so many hidden gems, in March 2019, I decided to create a space as well as a community to share these beautiful places. I've lived in the Berkshires my whole life and have worked as a trauma therapist for almost 10 years. On my page, I tie my love for nature and my background in therapy together to help others heal through hiking. Hiking and being in nature has so many healing benefits and it's my goal to help others learn how easy it is to heal with nature.

In 2009, I started working in the mental health field and later received my Masters in Social Work. In the start of my career, I worked with children who had been victims of physical and sexual abuse. I came to realize that many of these children had never been hiking, had never been camping for that matter. I knew being outside helped me through hard times and I wanted to share this with the clients I worked with. So I incorporated nature walks and nature scavenger hunts in some of the groups I ran. The children really enjoyed these outings and their time in nature.

Later, I switched over to working with men in our city that were involved in gang related activities. I worked with them in the streets and in the jail if they were arrested. When I talked with these young men, I learned that many of them had never been to the State Forest. How have they never seen these beautiful places that are right here for us to enjoy? These places were practically right down the street from where they lived.

I have come to realize, that hiking and being in nature is seen as a privilege and I didn't want that mindset to continue. I started taking these men out into the woods, to the lake, to the State Forest. Some were blown away because they didn't know these places existed others were scared because to them, it was unknown territory, something new and something they were not used to.

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It is clear to me that everyone deserves this opportunity and learning to heal our minds and bodies with nature has so many benefits. Being outside in nature reduces anger, fear, and stress, it increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical well-being.

From my experience, and now recently connecting my passion of hiking and trainings together, my goal is to help others learn about the healing benefits that hiking and being in nature has on the mind and body.

Marlee Tyska, MSW, LCSW,

Pittsfield

The writer is the creator of the Facebook page, Hiking in the Berkshires with Berkshire Greenleaf.


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