Feeling stressed, depressed, or tired? The natural environment may be the best medicine. Studies suggest the natural environment improves mental health conditions by alleviating stress, depression, and fatigue. It also supports attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Alzheimer’s and improves cognitive function.
The Williamson County Parks Department fully understands that natural open spaces are necessary for mental, as well as physical health and wellness. Randy Bell, senior director of the Williamson County Parks Department, said it best, “our parks are islands in this sea of development.”
According to The Great Outdoors? Exploring the Mental Health Benefits of Natural Environments by David G. Pearson and Tony Craig, there are “restorative” properties of the natural environment that support mental wellness. Attention restoration theory developed by psychologists Rachel and Steven Kaplan in 1989 suggests that “in urban environments, people are forced to use their attention to overcome the effects of constant stimulation, which induces cognitive fatigue. In contrast, natural environments benefit from scene content that automatically captures attention while simultaneously eliciting feelings of pleasure.”
Williamson County parks aim to be your island from the sea of ever-increasing urbanization and intense development; a place where the tranquility of the outdoor parks and trails provide a sense of peace and harmony and offer the opportunity to improve your overall mental health. With more than 27 miles of trails through the county’s parks, trails and preserve system, there are many options to not only improve mental health, but also enjoy a refreshing walk, run or bike ride for National Trails Day on Saturday, June 2!
Natural environments are equally beneficial for children’s mental wellness and early childhood development. According to the national bestseller Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, “nature serves as a blank slate upon which a child draws and reinterprets the culture’s fantasies…unlike television, nature does not steal time; it amplifies it.”
Parks such as Berry Springs Park and Preserve, 1801 C.R. 152, in Georgetown, provide prairies, primitive and improved campgrounds, trails, and meadows to enhance your experience with the native environment. Children can enjoy playgrounds, trails, creeks, rivers, and ponds as well!
Southwest Williamson County Regional Park, Twin Lakes Park, Champion Park, Brushy Creek Regional Trail, Lake Creek Trail, and the Williamson County Expo also stand ready to help people improve their physical and cognitive function with a variety of recreational facilities. There is something for all ages and activity levels from a narrow-gauge railroad, playscapes, and splash pad, to hiking and biking trails, and riding arenas.
This year, Williamson County Parks Department reached a milestone of celebrating 15 years of providing parks, trails and open spaces to the residents and guests of Williamson County. The public is invited to help celebrate their 15th anniversary by sharing photos from the county parks and trails and posting them with the hashtag #WilCoParks15. For more information on Williamson County Parks, go to www.wilco.org/parks.