It’s a Beautiful Season to Spend Time Outdoors

Early Autumn
Path through woods that are mostly still green with a patch of red and yellow trees on the right. Image courtesy of Tim Hill via Pixabay.

Spending time outdoors where there are trees and sky and undeveloped spaces is good for our souls.


Every now and then I experience the intensity of the world happenings and pull away a bit. Odd Republican candidate debates, impending government shutdown, war in Ukraine, increasing COVID cases, and so much more. It is sometimes difficult to find a peaceful balance even for just a few moments.

I realize that for some people this is a daily struggle, and I am fortunate that most of the time I can find internal balance. However, when I can’t, everything seems like it is too much to deal with and I risk declining everything, even the good and healthy invitations.

When my balance is threatened, I’ve learned to address it early. The first thing I do is disengage from all news outlets for a few days; the world will go on if I am not aware of every happening. The next thing I do is make time to get outside. Morgan is always up for a walk and our favorite place, Battle Creek Off-leash Dog Park, is beautiful in every season.

I’ve recently encountered the term shinrin-yoku, Japanese for “forest bathing.” A few weeks ago a colleague mentioned it, then I saw it in a TV show, and then it popped up in an article on wellness and mindfulness that I read this week.

Essentially, it is an ancient practice made new. Spending time outdoors where there are trees and sky and undeveloped spaces is good for our souls. I didn’t really need  articles to confirm this. Most of us have had the experience of feeling better emotionally and spiritually after spending time outside.

Here in the Cities we are surrounded by green spaces. We don’t have to go far to get to a park with trees, lakes, and clear sky. And if there is a reason that you can’t get to one of these places, not to worry. You can get the same benefit by sitting near a window and letting the outdoors fill all your senses.

When the stress of daily living threatens your internal balance, perhaps a bit of time to “bathe” in the outdoors will help you reset. If not outdoor time, then perhaps something else. There are many ancient practices made new. What works for you?

Mindfulness, meditation, centering prayer, shinrin-yoku, journaling, creating, baking… it doesn’t really matter what your restorative practice is, only that you have one that works for you at this time in your life so that you can have a few moments of peacefulness.

Take a few minutes to find your balance in the rush of days. And when you do, let us know what works best for you. Maybe your practice will guide someone else to one that works for them. We never know how our lives can strengthen the lives of others.

Breathe in the autumn air. Notice the colors bursting out on all the trees. Smell the season change. Feel the lingering rays of warmth. Taste the fruits of the season. Let your spirit settle into a place of balance for this moment. Then share the joy.

About Rachael Keefe

Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ. She was called to Living Table in 2015 after serving in many varied ministry settings since her ordination in 1992. She holds graduate degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Seminary at Yale (formerly Andover Newton Theological School). Her ministry and leadership often center around advocacy and accessibility. Her writing has been published by Chalice Press, The Christian Century, Red Letter Christians, Working Preacher, RevGalBlogPals, and others. She is grateful to be in ministry with Living Table today.

Share this Pastoral Notes

post from Rachael

4 thoughts on “It’s a Beautiful Season to Spend Time Outdoors”

  1. Ha! I’ve been “forest bathing” since I was old enough to walk out our dirt road to the hillside where there was a copse of trees, and sumac twice as tall as I was. (I was about 3’6″ at the time.) Nowadays the nearest patch of woods is down at Lake Hiawatha–in fact, I think I’ll he’d there right now! It’s one of those days.

  2. Life’s stressor went Helter-Skelter on the 18th. Took our car in for shocks & a road trip check. Was told our only car was not repairable & undriveable. Trip was on hold & almost canceled. The co. I work for said I’m going & rented a car for us to the northwoods. Forest cleansing at its best. Fresh woodland air, cat tails rustling, colors galore. Journaling all stressors away. Feeling so blessed with how everything worked out. Blessed be for the faith I hold!!!


Leave a Comment