There are over 1,000 waterfalls in North Carolina and as well as being a stunning part of the state’s landscape, there is compelling evidence that they can be therapeutic for a variety of mental health conditions. . May is not only the perfect time of year to visit the waterfalls and experience many of their healing properties, but also a great time to take a moment and reflect on Mental Health and Disorders Awareness Month. activities to help mental health that are perhaps a little more out of the ordinary. box – or off the grid – than usual.
What attracts us to waterfalls? Trees, animals, scenic landscapes and all sorts of other things in nature draw us in, but few things affect us like waterfalls do. Looking at pictures of waterfalls does not give the same feeling. The experience of seeing a waterfall is something unique and some would say, addicting.
Some suggest that this attraction is due to the negative ions produced by the waterfalls, which are believed to increase serotonin, the hormone that generates feelings of well-being. Although scientific studies are sparse on this theory, there are studies, such as one from 2013 in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, that link exposure to nature with better mental well-being.
Although an increase in serotonin may be partly responsible for a better mood at waterfalls, there are other aspects of standing in front of a waterfall that are possible reasons for a better mood. Mental Health.
The waterfalls are an extraordinary sensory experience. We see beauty with our eyes, feel the spray on our skin, hear the roar with our ears, smell the plants and flowers, and taste the air with tiny droplets of water from the falls. Engaging all the senses can, at the very least, distract the mind from more intense thoughts and help free it, even for a moment, from depression and anxiety. Indeed, several studies indicate that simply being in nature and outdoors helps lower blood pressure, decrease anxiety and stress, and promote a healthier lifestyle. Studies conducted in other “blue spaces” like the beach and lakes indicate similar mental health benefits, such as increased mindfulness, reduced stress, better mental clarity, and overall calm.
The exciting part of waterfalls acting as sanity healing vessels is the anecdotal evidence. The emails I have received from people who have overcome extraordinary challenges and set themselves on the path to authentic living using waterfalls are amazing.
One woman, Dawn, struggled with alcohol addiction and other habits that negatively impacted her health. She decided to visit a waterfall and even though it was difficult, she liked the waterfalls enough to take on the challenge of seeing as many waterfalls as possible on her checklist. The difficulties she had at the start gradually eased and by the halfway point she was in much better shape and drinking less. When she completed the challenge, she had lost almost 100 pounds and quit drinking. This does not mean that all you need to do to solve all your problems is to visit a waterfall. That’s not how it works. The stunts didn’t stop Dawn from drinking. Dawn did. But the hike to the waterfalls gave her something she needed to take that extra step she hadn’t been able to take before. Everyone needs something. The wonderful thing about waterfalls is that they offer more of “a few things” than virtually any other nature experience.
The pandemic has brought record numbers of visitors to state and national parks and forests, and they’re not leaving. Why do they stay? What do they take away from their experiences abroad? The stress and exhaustion of the past few years is real, but so is taking a walk in the woods or visiting waterfalls to help manage that stress.
I am convinced that there is a real physiological response to being at the waterfall. There is a real desire to go to the waterfalls, to help keep them clean for future generations, and to share their love with others who may not know of their amazing mental health benefits.
Experience all the excitement of waterfalls and visit one for yourself? Pay attention to how you react, bring a newspaper, take pictures, sit on a rock and just be present in the moment. You can find a healthy new waterfall addiction.
Kevin Adams is founder and director of Waterfall Keepers of North Carolina and author of “North Carolina Waterfalls”.