Carol Emmert

Carol Emmert

The holidays are fast approaching. This year, don’t focus on what’s missing. Choose instead to show gratitude for what you have. Celebrate the seasons with a focus on nature and simplicity.

2020 has been a difficult year for many of us. COVID-19 has affected our lives in many ways. These changes in our daily routines have often increased our stress levels. Lack of face-to-face time might have hindered relationships. Finances might be tight. Ever-changing educational plans can put the whole family on edge. Let’s choose to step away from all these stressors and enjoy nature-based days for the rest of this year.

A quiet walk through the woods could help us all. Feel your stress drop away as you crunch through fallen leaves, watch wildlife or listen to the river. What could make this even better? Sharing the experience with those you care about. Invite family or friends to join you on your walks.

Don’t wait until you can devote an entire day to a woodland trek. Go on short walks, and go often. Explore the same paths at various times of the day. Marvel at the beauty of the frost designs in the early morning. Locate the birds you hear on your lunchtime walk. Watch the interplay of sunlight and trees on an afternoon trip.

Once you are familiar with your paths, take a sunset or nighttime walk through the woods. I recently did this and was filled with awe at the beauty of the stars twinkling above some of my favorite trees.

What about those upcoming December days? Layer up and continue to enjoy time spent outdoors with loved ones. Tromp through the snow. Take a walk through holiday lights. Sit with a mug of cocoa and gaze at the stars. Our closest relationships do not need to be filled with excessive words. What our relationships need is the gift of time. We need time to reconnect, to learn to appreciate the small details, to see the good in others. Nature invites us to pull up a seat and spend that time well.

If you are one of those people who loves to give physical gifts as well as your time, choose practicality. Would a flashlight, a new hat or warm gloves make outdoor excursions easier? Then focus on these gifts.

Link arms with your friends on your walk, wear a mask. Hold your loved ones close. Tell them how much you appreciate them. Children are struggling with stress too, even if they aren’t putting it into words. We need to reclaim our fun! If someone asks you what you want for the holidays, simply reply: “You.” Let them know that time spent together, enjoying outdoor adventures, is all you need to find happiness.

This is how I choose to focus on peace, joy and happiness for the holidays. Will you join me?

Carol Emmert, of Anderson, is a founding director of Heart of the River Coalition.

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