The healing powers of nature are incredible. Anyone who spends time in the outdoors knows this to be an undeniable fact. Don’t take my word for it, check out this article published by the University of Minnesota. “Greening” your exercise routine, monitoring your screen time, and getting outside has not only physical benefits, but also mental benefits. One person who this especially rings true for is Charissa. We connected through Instagram, where her posts often consist of hiking the Appalachian Trail with her 4 year old daughter, whose trail name is Pigtails. In fact they each have their own Tarma Designs Appalachian Trail pendant (pictured below). After liking each other’s posts back and forth, I wanted to know what started Charissa’s love for the outdoors.

Her response wasn’t at all what I expected. It was better.

“I haven’t been an outdoors person my entire life. I grew up spending summer days in my small town backyard. Then in college I worked as a park ranger giving tours and programs at a Civil War Battlefield (more a historical park than natural park). When my daughter was born 4.5 years ago I returned to work and it just wasn’t working for our family. My sons played baseball in different towns and my husband works long hours at night for UPS. I couldn’t provide transportation for my kids and be there for them working 8-4:30 and then commuting an hour home. My lack of sleep and lack of self-care was at an all time high so my husband encouraged me to give up my job in tourism and work from home as a contractor. I’d struggled with depression and anxiety in the past, especially working from home when my sons were little. I didn’t want to go down that path again and I was horribly out of shape so I started taking my daughter out for walks at a local NPS site.

Then I started hiking with her in a pack, exploring all the places I often wrote about in tourism marketing materials. Next thing I knew I was 50 lbs. lighter and so much happier. Nature truly is my medication. I’ve learned so much about my natural surroundings, I don’t struggle with mental health issues and my physical health is better too. I read Florence Williams’ book “The Nature Fix” and now I can’t get enough of the actual science behind the healing power of nature and the concept of rewilding."

Charissa has started a company called the Nature Prescription, which offers outdoor and nature therapy guided programs. They connect people to places to experience the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of time in nature by facilitating immersive outdoor experiences. How cool is that?! It made me wonder if her own struggles with mental health were the reason she started The Nature Prescription in the first place.

“Yes, that was why I started The Nature Prescription. Nature has been so healing and I only wish I’d made that connection sooner. I think it can be an incredibly helpful tool for anyone, especially those who struggle with mental health issues, PTSD or other traumatic experiences. I also think it’s important for children growing up in a digital age. As we get closer to technology we are changing our actual wiring and losing our connection to our roots and the earth. I’m working right now to create a nature connection program for girls in the 11-15 age range to help them find their inner voice and connect to their authentic selves. There are programs elsewhere along the same idea (Gaia Girls, GirlVentures, etc.) but nothing in the Mid-Atlantic part of the U.S. where I’m located. I see how confident and empowered my daughter is from her time in the outdoors at only 4, and I want to keep that momentum going for the pre-teen/teen years.”

Charissa says that nature can offer powerful medicine to us all, especially during the challenging times we’re experiencing now. She’s working on a Hiking and Healing series for adults in her area, but her main passions are helping young girls find their voice through nature connection, while also creating a generation of outdoor advocates, as well as connecting people with mental health issues to nature. As Charissa states, the effect technology has on young children is profound. We need more programs like hers that encourage children to spend more time in nature. We discussed how we both wish we had programs like The Nature Prescription when we were younger.

“I’m literally trying to create something I wish I’d had as well. I feel like once someone creates that deep connection to nature, it’s something they can always fall back on when they’re struggling or going through a difficult time, but hopefully it’s a lifelong connection! As a former ranger, creating lifelong stewards who will care for and protect our public lands is really important to me as well.

I’m a little more than halfway through an 8-week Tree Ring Masterclass right now where I’m working on this new creative offering. I’ve been writing out things like my mission and values and this little intro just came to me one day:

What if every girl had the opportunity to connect with nature to discover her true self and nurture her authentic voice before she heard society’s message of what she should or shouldn’t be? What if transformative experiences in nature sparked a soul journey to a place of connection, belonging and cultivating her gifts to the universe?”

To learn more about the Nature Prescription and their mission, check out their Facebook and Instagram!