Reset the new year, and take a walk outside

They say 80 percent of those who make New Year’s resolutions have failed to keep them by the end of January. And that would include me. But I have a new proposal, and for anyone else in my boat.

I am going to make April 22 my “new” new year’s resolution day. With spring weather (hopefully) emerging, this date will inspire a resolution that’s better for me, better for others, and more likely to stick. The date is Earth Day, and I invite (beg) you to join me, for everyone’s sake.

My resolution will be to increase my time outside, walk in the woods and bring someone with me each time.

Here’s why: I recently learned an alarming new statistic – the new daily national average for kids is seven hours of “screen time” and 10 minutes outside. We are utterly losing our connection with nature, and with it, the most deeply healing and inspirational source of energy in our lives.

Note that Richard Louv, who wrote about “nature-deficit disorder” in children (“Last Child in the Woods”) has now written a book for adults (“The Nature Principle”). It’s not just the kids I am worried about – it’s all of us.

Could we create a statewide goal to have a much higher average than 10 minutes a day outdoors for our Michigan kids? Adults too? We have so much more to work with than most states to remedy this worrisome trend, and so much opportunity to keep a new year’s resolution.

Three thousand miles of shoreline, over 2,600 miles of developed hiking and biking trails, more than 7 million acres of state and federal working lands and parks that are accessible to the public.

We have an amazing network of wild places, both urban and rural, that are literally right out our door in the vast network of nature preserves assembled by the state’s non-profit land conservancies and nature centers. Find the land conservancy nearest you through Heart of the Lakes’ directory of land conservancies or go to The Nature Conservancy’s website and look up preserves near you.

I am going to create some goals to keep me moving, like walking the shores of every Great Lake around Michigan, from the sand of Lake Michigan’s dunes to the cobblestones of Lake Huron. I’ll pick agates along Lake Superior’s Keweenaw Peninsula and wade in the marshes on Lake Erie. I will go to the Michigan trails website to map out my hikes and bike rides; and go here for water trails to plan a canoe or kayak route; or here to plan places to visit along the great migratory flyway in Michigan.

Some days I’ll keep it simple, and just walk my two basset hounds around the neighborhood. That always takes way more than 10 minutes, at their pace.

April 22, Earth Day. Make it a personal day of commitment. I am much more confident that this is a resolution I can carry through on. Be accountable for reconnecting with nature, and connecting others. Help a child average higher than ten minutes a day outside. I believe our future, and that of Michigan and the Great Lakes, depends on it.

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Bill Fullmer
Sun, 03/23/2014 - 11:35am
Thank you Helen Taylor. You've got it right. There's beauty around every corner and every bend of the trail or river. It is enriching to be in nature. It is spiritual, peaceful, dramatic, energizing. Skip the gym once in a while and walk or run through a woods or around a lake. It's different every time.
Maureen McDoanld
Tue, 03/25/2014 - 10:35pm
Thanks for a good reminder Helen Taylor. I moved to Southfield for the abundance of nature trails and I've allowed myself to get fat and frumpy this winter while plunking on the keyboard. Earth Day is a perfect day to commit to getting out of doors again.