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Nature's Therapy

Nature's Therapy: How Nature Healed Me

By Elliot Frei | elliotfrei23.weebly.com

Nature’s Medicine

The outdoors in Salt Lake City is very hard to not appreciate. Just hop in your car and drive thirty minutes towards the mountains, and it’s not hard to see why. I look to the east side of the Salt Lake Valley, at the mountain that I wake up to every single day, and am reminded to appreciate the little things in life. Even being shrouded in the red tinge of smoke from the fires in the west, Mount Olympus is still standing, like a proud soldier in the midst of chaos. 

Watching that mountain rise above all others, so healthy and strong, has me thinking of all the life that inhabits it. From the trees – cedars, spruce, and firs – to the wildlife – deer and birds – the mountain nurtures and hosts. All without a single complaint. How did I get so lucky to witness that tender loving care each and every day?

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As a life-long resident of Salt Lake City, I have the pleasure of exploring the Wasatch Range in, quite literally, my backyard. Spectacular hikes, like the iconic view of Sundial Peak at Lake Blanche in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Bells Canyon at the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon, and Grandeur Peak in Millcreek Canyon, are all equally as breathtaking as the next. What makes these hikes so unique is each has water cutting and winding down the canyon to the valley below, to the place I call home.

This has a significant role in my overall happiness. Yet, I do not know why. It's a mystery to me. I do know, however, nature in its raw state, helps balance and calm my mind. I have been awestruck by nature for as long as I can remember. A good example, the way the weather makes me feel, specifically when it rains. It's therapy for me.

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Water helps replenish the dry and quench the thirsty. It is essential for all life. Something so simple, so pure can bring joy, a soothing sensation, and happiness into life. Whether it is rain, or water making its way down canyon, I can strongly say water has therapeutic benefits.

I do not read for pleasure often, but I fell into the lap of a great book not too long ago. The Nature Fix by Florence Williams explores the effects of nature as a healing mechanism to reduce stress and anxiety. Something I feel every time I get exposed to nature in its entirety. Simply put, it makes me happy when I feel the flow of a stream or hear the rustle of leaves in the wind. Mother Nature does wonders to those who reap her benefits. For me, this holds true.

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Mother Nature nurtured me and willed me back to health when tragedy struck my life at the age of nine. I underwent emergency brain operation due to an AVM (Arteriovenous Malformation), which is an abnormal connection between arteries and veins in the brain or spine. I was induced into a coma. After waking up, I was instantly in recovery mode. Learning to walk again with physical therapy and learning to talk again with speech and occupational therapy, I found the strength to live. It was the aid of nature that guided me.

When I was physically able, I ventured outside. This act did wonders for my recovery process; hearing the sound of streams and smelling the fresh pine trees. It allowed me to let go. It allowed me to forget about my limits. When I am completely engulfed in nature it distracts me and calms my mind, relaxes the tension, and helps me forget about my muscle atrophy.

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Nature is important to my physical, mental, spiritual and emotional health towards recovery. Soon after recovery, I was back in the classroom, finishing junior high and moving to high school. Shortly after high school, I had a desire to go down a path of environmental advocacy. I've always had an affinity for the outdoors and it clearly performed miracles for me. My past experiences in the outdoors, through the process of recovery, have played a vital role in driving my passion. Starting Fall 2010, I enrolled at Salt Lake Community College to pursue something of that nature (pun intended). Little did I know, seven years later, I would be in my senior year at the University of Utah interning at an organization that lives and breathes water, the Seven Canyons Trust.