Happier trails: Moms find comfort in nature

Summit Metro Parks
4 min readMay 3, 2023

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Claire Merrick, Marketing & Public Relations Manager

Hannah and her kids, now 13, 11 and 7, have many happy memories of visiting the Metro Parks over the years.

Motherhood is a transformative experience that can bring incredible joy, love and fulfillment. But, even for the most resilient mothers, it can also be lonely, challenging and stressful, resulting in maternal mental health disorders like postpartum depression or anxiety. Fortunately, spending time outside can help! From reducing stress and anxiety to boosting mood and improving overall wellbeing, time spent in nature can provide moms with a much-needed respite from the demands of parenthood, helping them feel more connected to themselves, their children and the world around them.

When Hannah Esworthy-Roe became a stay-at-home mom, visiting the Metro Parks and completing the Fall Hiking Spree became something her family enjoyed together.

Hannah and her kids along park trails throughout the years.

By the time her children Norah (5) and Ezra (3) became confident hikers, Hannah was pregnant with her third baby. She grew anxious about continuing their frequent hikes with two young kids and a newborn. That fall, they began navigating spree trails with baby Gideon strapped to Hannah’s chest. It wasn’t until her husband offered to wear Gideon that Hannah realized how important these hikes were in reclaiming the mom she had been. She made it her personal mission to complete every hike while babywearing. And although it was physically challenging, it was also rewarding. “That first year, completing the spree with two kids and a baby on my chest gave me so much confidence,” said Hannah, who struggled with postpartum anxiety. “Spending time outdoors gave me peace. Slowing down, taking deep breaths, and pausing to observe nature offered a break from the worry and anxiety of parenting.”

Paloma and Emma enjoy the spring sunshine on Meadow Loop Trail.

Personal or family history of depression can increase the risk of postpartum depression, and for that reason, Paloma Newland was wary of maternal mental health disorders. As a new mom, Paloma found her struggles with postpartum anxiety could be eased by spending time outdoors. She’s since made going outside daily with her 6-month-old daughter Emma a priority.

“Going for a walk helps reset my brain when I’m having a difficult moment,” says Paloma. “It’s the one thing I do to cope. I remind myself to look up at the trees and the sky and immediately, it feels like my whole chest just opens up.”

While the Newlands live close to several Metro Parks trails, Paloma recognizes it can sometimes seem daunting to venture out with kids when you’re struggling mentally. Her advice: “If 10 minutes outdoors feels like a lifetime, you can sit outside by your door for two minutes and go back in.” She emphasizes that the aspect of stepping outside your four walls into the open air is something any mom can do, no matter what type of residence they live in. “That time will bring a new view and fresh, new air you can count on to redirect you,” she says.

A woman walks with a stroller and a dog along a crushed limestone path in Sand Run Metro Park. Photo by JJ Prekop Jr.

Amidst the challenges of motherhood, there is hope in the healing power of nature. Whether it’s a stroll on a Spree for All trail or simply enjoying the sights and sounds of the natural world, spending time outdoors can be a powerful tool for mothers looking to maintain their mental health and find balance in a new phase of life.

May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. If you are struggling with a maternal mental health disorder, you are not alone. For support, visit postpartum.net or call the Postpartum Support International Helpline at 1–800–944–4773.

For more stories like this, check out Green Islands Magazine, a bi-monthly publication from Summit Metro Parks. Summit County residents can sign up to receive the publication at home free of charge.

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Summit Metro Parks

Summit Metro Parks manages 15,000 acres, 16 parks, three nature centers and more than 150 miles of trails. Find more at www.summitmetroparks.org.