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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee

Letter from Publisher

Apr 01, 2015 04:26PM

I recently met with Korinne Haeffel, executive director of the Wisconsin Green Building Alliance, to discuss the organization’s  upcoming 30x30 Nature Challenge. It’s the second year the group is challenging Wisconsinites to spend 30 minutes in nature, completely unplugged from any technology, for the 30 days of June.

Haeffel also teaches at the Milwaukee Area Technical College’s Center for Energy Conservation and Advanced Manufacturing. Last spring,she offered extra credit to students in her Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design class for participating in a similar 15-day challenge. Out of just nine students that opted in, only one seemed enthusiastic about it. The rest resisted, considering it a tedious and boring waste of their time.

During the first few days of the challenge, the students’ daily journals became notepads of complaints. One declared that nature doesn’t est in urban Milwaukee; he had to drive an hour to find a remotely natural spot. Another liked to garden while plugged into music; staying quietly aware of his surroundings was alien to him.

As the days proceeded, Haeffel witnessed the students’ transformation to a different outlook. They became positive about the experience and overall, felt more relaxed, invigorated and free of stress. The student frustrated by having to drive to find nature was excited to spot an owl on his block and came to realize that nature can be found anywhere, even in the city, if you take the time to notice and connect with it. The gardener now tends to leave his music off, since he recognized that he has increased mental clarity and more awareness of his own thoughts and surroundings. Most participants declared their intention to continue the adventure.

Haeffel, who took the challenge herself, characterizes it as a profound experience. In the midst of a particularly stressful day, she considered the outdoor break an inefficiency she couldn’t afford. Grabbing a blanket, she lay on the grass determined to do nothing but rest. After decompressing for five minutes, she began noticing the blades of grass, then bugs and spider webs and glistening drops of dew—things she had never noticed before. Before she knew it, 45 minutes had past. She returned to work recharged and ready to tackle the rest of the day, easily accomplishing all her tasks. The mood-changing time outdoors resulted in increased energy and a restorative morale boost.

We don’t need research to tell us that spending time in nature feels good, but many studies are showing a host of physical and mental health benefits across a broad spectrum of conditions. Discover more in this month’s feature article, “Nature’s Wisdom: Its Lessons Inspire, Heal and Sustain Us,” by ChristineMacDonald.

It’s not necessary to backpack into the wilderness to experience nature. Just grab a blanket, plop down in a green spot and enjoy discovering the miraculous world all around us!

Honoring our connection to the Earth,

Gabriella Buchnik, Publisher

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