There’s no season like summer to enjoy spending time in the great outdoors. Whether that means beaches, lakeshores, mountains or forests, there’s much to love about the beauty and vastness of nature, the scents of sand and salt, earth and trees, flora and fauna.
While I love to travel far and wide, some of my personal favorite spots for immersing in nature are right here in Texas: Wimberly and South Padre Island. Over the course of many years of returning regularly to each of these places, I’ve come to realize that my connection to them is about so much more than enjoying a sunny day at the beach or a leisurely hike through woods and fields; it’s about reaping the unique health benefits that each of these spots brings.
It’s no secret that in general, nature reduces stress, calms the spirit, lifts the mood and promotes healing. But we don’t often pause to think about how the effects of the beach, for example, are different from the effects of the mountains or a lake — and which of these will best help each of us heal and thrive at a given time.
From my personal experiences combined with a touch of Ayurvedic wisdom I’ve discovered through Ayurveda and yoga expert Renu Namjoshi, here are the benefits of four natural elements I consider when thinking about which outdoor destination will best support my health and well-being at various times.
Whether seashores, lakes, rivers or falls, water cools and soothes. I have found that being near or in water can be particularly healing when I feel anxious, stressed or depleted. Its life-sustaining qualities replenish and settle me, leaving me ready to go back out and face the world.
Hiking trails, meadows, mountains and hillsides covered in fragrant vegetation — all of these earthly spots have a powerful grounding effect. Going for a hike, working in the yard, meditating by a field — these are perfect for times when you need perspective and stability or are feeling lost in your thoughts.
There’s nothing like the relaxing sensation of a warm ray of the sun on your skin, but there’s so much more to sunshine than light and heat! The sun is a ball of gas blazing with energy. The source that powers all growth and life on earth, it infuses everything it touches with vitality and force. Spend time in the sun when you need to jumpstart your stamina or boost your mood. Bonus: it’s an important source of vitamin D. Just don’t forget the sunscreen!
In Ayurveda, the air has qualities of movement and lightness, which is ideal for times when you’re feeling trapped, tense or stressed. While air is everywhere, its healing qualities are especially potent in forests — the lungs of our planet. Forests also emit a sort of natural aromatherapy in the form of phytoncides — organic compounds with antibacterial properties found in tree essential oils, especially from conifers like pine, cedar and spruce. So for a healthy, natural stress reducer and antioxidant infusion, head to the forest and just breathe.
I’m grateful that between Wimberly and South Padre, I find all four of these elements. Just heading to each place regularly throughout the year helps keep me on an even keel. But it’s reassuring to know that when I’m feeling anxious, depleted, lethargic, stressed or lost in my thoughts, I can pick the outdoor destination that’s best for my body and soul at a given moment. Both of my favorite spots offer a little of everything so everyone in my family can find what they need. What type of outdoor destination is right for you this season?
About the Author
Art collector and philanthropist Lorena Junco Margain is the author of “On the Way to Casa Lotus,” a memoir about her journey of coming to terms with the permanent consequences of a surgeon’s devastating mistake. After studying visual arts at Universidad de Monterrey, she co-founded the Distrito14 gallery in Monterrey. She also co-founded and curated, with her husband, the Margain-Junco Collection to promote awareness of Mexican art internationally. She lives in Austin, Texas with her family.