Walk with a doc in the Ernesta Ballard Healing Garden

Take a walk through the woodlands. Travel the campus trails. Wander through the Ambler Arboretum gardens. Stroll to the center of the Healing Garden labyrinth.

Breathe deep. Take a moment for yourself. Recharge. Reenergize.

"The benefits from getting outside and engaging in outdoor activities for the mind, body and spirit are well-documented and help to create a lasting connection to nature that help promote happiness and good health," said Ambler Arboretum of Temple University Director Kathy Salisbury. "The Ambler Arboretum and the Ambler Campus are an excellent resource to reconnect with the world around you and reap the healing benefits of reacquainting yourself with the natural world."

Think of it as "NatureRx."

NatureRx is a grassroots movement focused on the idea that going outside to play and relax is good for you. This movement was designed to bring humor and information into sync as a campaign to get more people outside for their own good.

At Temple, Dr. Holly Sawyer, PhD, LPC, NCC, CAADC, a licensed therapist with Tuttleman Counseling Services, wants to help lead the charge. She is developing a "Walk With the Doc" program at Temple Ambler in coordination with the Office of Student Life and the Ambler Arboretum.

"Tara Stasik (Ambler Campus Director of Academic and Student Services) talked to me about the NatureRx initiatives that Temple Ambler and the Arboretum were working on implementing. I loved the idea — the Ambler Campus provides the perfect landscape for it," said Dr. Sawyer, who offers counseling services for students at Temple Ambler every Thursday during the fall and spring semesters. "I wanted to get started now because this time of year with finals and the end of the semester looming is a particularly stressful time for students."

Dr. Sawyer said she'd like to host "Walk With the Doc" programs at least twice a semester around midterms and finals.

"Being able to connect with nature — to take some time to slow down, to literally stop and smell the flowers — is extremely beneficial during high-stress points. Nature forces you to become more in tune with yourself," she said. "Just because it's late fall and heading into winter doesn't mean you can't get outside and enjoy nature. I want to provide students with another set of tools that they can use to de-stress year-round."

The Ambler Arboretum of Temple University is a center for environmental and horticultural education, research and conservation and a community resource, modeling environmental responsibility and the art and science of horticulture while celebrating the achievements of women in horticulture, preserving the historic significance of the campus and highlighting the health benefits of nature, plants and gardening. 

"The Ambler Arboretum offers everything from shade covered wooded walks to colorful formal gardens. What better way to take your daily dose of nature than a stroll through one of our gardens?" said Salisbury. "The ideas behind NatureRx aren't only for our benefit. They are also designed to change people's mindset toward being a part of nature rather than separate entities."

By being a part of the natural order of things, the realities and challenges presented by climate change and sustainable living "become personal issues," Salisbury said.

"At the Arboretum, we take our place within nature very seriously, but we try to do so in a fun and engaging way," she said. "Through community outreach and events like Walk With the Doc, we show that there is a space for everyone. There are small changes that anyone can make to bring themselves into a more sustainable mindset."

In the hustle and bustle of the city, Dr. Sawyer said, people often move from task to task to task without taking a moment to simply breathe or assess their own wellbeing.

"Temple Ambler provides a calming environment in the heart of nature — you can contemplate what you are thinking and feeling in the labyrinth or along the trails or in the gardens. There are a lot of places on campus where you can find peace, little pockets where you can take five to seven minutes to shift focus and reconnect with yourself as you go from one point to the next," she said. "Often it's not necessarily where you are, but what you do with the space. Tap into all five senses — listen to the leaves rustle, smell the flowers, touch an acorn. Focusing on what you are experiencing can have a very beneficial impact on lessening feelings of anxiousness and depression."

Of course, if a student needs a little more support in dealing with their thoughts, feelings and stressors, Dr. Sawyer is available to provide individuals counseling sessions from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in West Hall Room 108 each Thursday.

All students interested in counseling services must first visit Main Campus, 1700 N. Broad Street, 2nd Floor, and meet with a counselor during Walk-In Clinic hours (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays). The purpose of this visit is to complete initial paperwork, generate a record, and to provide students with an opportunity to meet with a counselor for a brief assessment. Services are free and confidential.

"These sessions are an opportunity to go over whatever they want to. If they are struggling with time management, we work on getting organized. If they are feeling anxious, we'll work on calming exercises," she said. "This is time spent on whatever will be the greatest benefit to them."