Shake the winter blues with a walk in the snow

By Mandy Martin

Darke County Parks

Experiencing the vast magic of snow requires outdoor exploration. While it is not uncommon for folks to dread the thought of snow, a short jaunt in one of Darke County’s parks will quickly shake the winter blues.

Let’s further investigate the science behind the freezing precipitation. The growth of a snow crystal, or snowflake, is a complex process that relies on many environmental factors. Snow forms when the atmospheric temperature is at or below freezing. The formation of a snow crystal occurs when a water molecule meets floating dust particles. As the flake begins to fall, the crystal adheres to water vapor and the six-sided flake takes shape. Marveling at the beauty of a snowflake is easily done with a hand lens and dark piece of clothing or black paper.

Although all snowflakes are hexagonally symmetrical, no two snowflakes are alike. The atmospheric conditions and rate at which the flakes fall, guarantees their individuality.

The English language uses many adjectives to describe different types of snow. Packed, powder, wet, drifting, crunch and sticking are all used to define snow. A walk in the woods quickly reveals how snow got such a variety of adjectives. Recall the sound of snow ‘crunching’ beneath your feet or the sight of snow ‘drifting’ outside your door! As adults, it is easy to immediately gravitate to the negative aspects of a snowy winter. The thought of shoveling our sidewalks and treacherous driving conditions can be overwhelming. However, take a moment to recall as a child the sheer joy of completing a snowman despite frozen fingers and toes!

Experiencing that joy again is easily attainable by taking a walk in the winter woods of Darke County Parks. The feel of the crisp cold air hitting your cheeks and the sight of a new fallen snow brings a wave of calm over you. The peaceful, quiet stillness that envelops the landscape during a snowfall surely has the same effect on the human psyche. Spending time in nature has been linked to a host of benefits including improved attention, lower stress, better mood, and reduced risk of psychiatric disorders. According to Lisa Nisbet, PhD, a psychologist with Trent University in Ontario, Canada, “There is mounting evidence, from dozens and dozens of researchers, that nature has benefits for both physical and psychological human wellbeing. You can boost your mood just by walking in nature, even in urban nature. And the sense of connection you have with the natural world seems to contribute to happiness even when you’re not physically immersed in nature.” Improve your mental health just by spending 20-30 minutes per day in nature. For more tips and resources related to your mental well-being, especially during the winter months, visit the Tri-County Board of Recovery and Mental Health Services website at www.tcbmds.org.

We hope you are able to join us and experience the magic of snow outdoors at one of the following scheduled walks: Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland December 3 at Shawnee Prairie Preserve, 6-9 p.m. or Winter Bird Walk January 24 at Routzong Preserve 9 a.m.