THE BLOG
12/09/2013 03:36 pm ET Updated Feb 08, 2014

A Walk in the Woods

Sometimes there's only one thing that works to bring sanity back into my life, energy back into my soul, and balance back into my body--and that is a walk in the woods.

It doesn't have to be a perfect day or the right season, because it's not about being entertained or impressed. It's about finding and re-finding peacefulness and focus. It's about regenerating my soul.

This past weekend was just such a time. I was well rested and well fed and not too stressed out about anything in particular, but I just couldn't seem to find my focus. My brain felt scattered, kind of like the kitchen after Thanksgiving dinner. Sure, gratitude and thankfulness are important, but sometimes I need something more...and so out I went into the cold woods.

The leaves crunched under my boots. The sun was bright in my eyes. There was a strange smell, something like sulfur. With all the leaves down, the woods were a tangled mess and the brambles and seeds stuck to my clothes. The paths were littered with downed trees and overgrown grasses and a mess of twigs. But it didn't matter because with each step, the mess inside began to organize.

The woods anytime, but especially in winter, are a reminder that it's no use trying to control anything because you will always lose control. But in that surrender, the magic of regeneration unfolds. It's the dance of decomposition and growth, disorder and insanely complicated--yet beautiful--order.

It's also important just to sit out in the woods. To listen. I heard ducks and geese flying. I heard the highway, even though it was miles away. But the most important thing I heard was the voice inside me reminding me what I needed to do next and what was most important. OK, I also heard my dog freaking out with happiness at being able to run wild in the woods. You don't want to see what she does to the house if I try and go out without her.

But eventually, it's time to return to that house, and just a little walk in the woods later everything seems to be more manageable, more prioritized, more balanced.

You don't need your own woods to get the benefits of a walk. Any old park will do. Although Sundays are safest this time of year, since it's hunting season (therefore, it's good to wear orange).

So, if you're feeling a bit scattered, stressed, depressed, or just plain out of balance, dress appropriately (preferably with layers) and get out there. You'll feel better in no time.

For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com