Relaxing Places & Spaces: Parks through all Seasons
One place I like to go that usually makes helps me feel relaxed and calm is to a park. Ideally somewhere with plenty of space to stroll around, with lots of trees and plants. Better still with a lake. Even a simple small park square can be a calming place to sit though, as it’s partly the act of taking time out to relax outdoors that I think brings benefits.
Continuing my blog theme discussing places and spaces that can be relaxing, I’d like to share with you what I love about parks and encourage you to make the most of the green spaces around wherever you live.
As you may have read in my blog about walking, I enjoy the outdoors. I find it’s so good for the mind and body, to be surrounded by and sights, sounds and smells of nature, and to enjoy some fresh air and get moving. As much as I love the countryside, I also love some of the wonderful parks we have within our towns and cities. Furthermore, parks can be enjoyed in all seasons.
In the Summer
On a warm, sunny day, parks of course are particularly beautiful and inviting places to be. I like how the warmth on a summers day naturally makes me slow down. I enjoy how the colours and shapes of the trees, grass, plants and flowers, are brought to life in the sunshine. Then to add to the sensory experience, there’s the subtle smell of the summer heat and the comforting smell of sun cream (yes my factor 50 is out as soon as there’s a little sun – I like to look after my skin!) On days like this, I may choose to take a blanket to the park and lie down somewhere peaceful in the shade of the tree. Then just enjoy resting and relaxing, looking at the sky (with my sunglasses on so it looks even more blue… and to protect my eyes of course!), watching clouds float by, seeing leaves glowing in the sunshine and tree tops swaying in the breeze. I might take a book and do some light reading, or visit with a friend and enjoy chatting at our leisure.
A trip to the park on a warm day with others can also provide the perfect opportunity for a picnic. What I like about picnics, aside the usual variety and amount of food, is that eating tends to be more mindful. I find myself enjoying the food more leisurely, really taking time to appreciate the sights, smells and tastes of each mouthful. Sharing food in this way can also be a lovely social activity and bring people together.
In the Autumn
I love seeing the trees transformed in the autumn, from their summer greens to a vivid assortment of autumnal oranges, apricots, reds, yellows, golds and browns. I find one great way to immerse yourself in the vibrancy of nature is to take a mindful walk with a camera. When I’m focused on noticing and capturing what I can see around me, on the colours, shapes, light and shadows of the scene, I feel myself relaxing. The visual focus distracts me from my thinking, and the photography indulges my creativity side. Last autumn, on a sunny autumn day I found I was feeling a little stressed, so I decided to get outside and enjoy the weather and do some mindful photography. I took a stroll around a nearby green space. An area which was usually pretty average, made up of grass, trees and paths, had become for the autumn much more visually interesting. The trees had changed to an array of colours, though some evergreens remained too adding to the variety, and the fallen leaves scattered the grass with dashes of browns and golds. I found walking around, enjoying photographing the trees and leaves at my leisure, was really relaxing and calming. Then once I was home I also had some photos to enjoy. You can take a look at some of these autumnal images in my photo gallery.
It doesn’t have to be sunny or dry to enjoy a trip to the park though. I would normally be put off by the rain, but recently I decided I was going to walk around the park even though the weather wasn’t so good as I had planned to and I wanted to. It was grey and rainy, but I put on some boots, wore a rain coat and took a large umbrella. Walking in the rain with my hood up, listening to the raindrops on my brolly and the ground, was relaxing. I found I felt calm and content walking a route of my choosing, looking at the birds and squirrels, looking at the trees, looking at the reflections on the lake, thinking, day dreaming, breathing. The rain had also reduced the number of other visitors at the time, which added to the peaceful atmosphere. If it had been really windy and wild it wouldn’t have been so nice, but I was glad to just embrace the wet British weather on this occasion.
In the Winter
When the weather gets cooler, I enjoy wrapping up warm for a park walk with a cosy coat plus hat, scarf and gloves. On a crisp, cold, bright day, this can be really refreshing and rejuvenating. Then afterwards you can enjoy warming up with a nice cup of tea. Of course, even more special is the rare occasion when you can take a walk around a park covered in a blanket of snow. If the sun comes out the white covering makes everywhere sparkle brightly, creating a magical look to the landscape.
A park can also look beautiful and atmospheric on a frosty morning. I wouldn’t typically visit a park that early in the day, however, sometimes I muster the motivation to get up for a Parkrun first thing on a Saturday. Every now and then it’s one of those sunny mornings where the ground is covered in a pretty layer of frost. The park glistens and you see a misty layer floating above the grass dissipate as the water warms and rises into the air. Apart from the need to concentrate more if sections of the route are a little slippery, this can really add to the enjoyment of running around the park.
In the Spring
The spring can be the most wonderful time to visit a park, particularly if there are plenty of flowers or trees with blossom. Even before Spring begins, you’ll usually find crocuses and early daffodils popping up as we reach the end of winter. I enjoy wandering around parks with formal garden areas too, where the flowers have been carefully planted purposely for visitors to enjoy.
Sometimes parks have additional features like a beautiful trellis tunnel (as pictured), unique monuments, pretty bandstands, stunning bridges or a maze of pathways. On a walk around one with some friends we stumbled upon a small sensory garden which included a large scale outdoor vibraphone. The friends I was with at the time were all musical like me, so needless to say we had a good play!
For all the family
Parks are great for all the family too (though I’m not sure how relaxing they are to go to as a parent with children to watch and run around after!). Anyhow, I have fond memories of my parents taking me to parks as a child.
I remember spending what seemed like hours on the swings and slides in the play areas, and running through some tunnels that featured in a local park. Sometimes my sister and I would ride our bikes or my Dad would bring along some bats and balls to play games. If we went to one of the parks with a pond we would take bread to feed to the ducks. In the autumn, we’d wade through the fallen leaves, hearing them swish and crunch under foot, and on wet days we’d jump in the puddles in our wellies. Then on some years in the winter, there would be enough snow to go sledging. Although after an occasion when I sledged into a tree and hit my head I don’t think my parents were quite so keen on that activity! I didn’t stop me though, I think I just avoided trees on future years! A particular highlight as a child was a mini steam train that ran around one of the parks on summer weekends and I remember the thrill of whizzing through the trees on the train, holding on tight around the corners, feeling the wind in my hair, hearing the train whistle go, waving to the crowd on the second loop around. Now I’m older, I’ve seen my friends enjoy taking their own children to the park for some quality family time.
For all the community
Parks are a place that bring members of the community of all ages together. They can be places to socialise and have fun, as well as places to relax and enjoy nature. You can enjoy a visit on your own, perhaps on a lunch break from work if nearby or on a day off, or enjoy a visit with friends or family at the weekend. You can visit for a brief sit, take a short stroll, go for a long walk, while away a whole afternoon, or make a day of it. You could walk the dog, go for a run or cycle around. You could play sports, team games or take the kids to the play area. If you fancy doing something creative you could paint, draw or photograph the scenery. Perhaps your park has mini golf or other leisure activities you can try. If the weather is decent you could stop for a picnic. Maybe there’s a quiet spot where you can practice some meditation. Alternatively, you could simply just sit on a bench and let the world go by…
I hope I’ve encouraged you to make time to enjoy the parks and green spaces around you!
About the Author
Other blogs in my relaxing places and spaces collection include: