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  • Writer's pictureMisti Luke, LCSW

Oklahoma Nature: Benefits Mental Health

Mountain Fork River with trees along the bank at Beavers Bend State Park
Beavers Bend State Park

Are you in the market for a natural way to improve your mental and emotional health in Oklahoma? Try nature.

Research shows your external surroundings can have a positive impact on your mood and sleep patterns. Being surrounded by nature can help relieve stress, and decrease depression symptoms.

Few external surroundings in the southern US can compare to the raw, majestic beauty seen in one particular small, community in the Kiamichi Mountains known as, Hochatown, Oklahoma.

Hochatown is located minutes north of Broken Bow, Oklahoma and is home to Beavers Bend State Park, Broken Bow Lake along with a wide array of additional outdoor attractions, many of which are free or extremely affordable.

Meaning breaking the bank isn’t a requirement as you embark on the journey of improving your emotional and mental health in Hochatown.

For example, Beavers Bend State Park offers fantastic hiking trails for folks looking to jump start physical activity into his or her self-care routine.

Speaking of self-care, according to a Stanford University led study, people who walked 90 minutes in nature versus people who walked in a high traffic urban setting, showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with depression.

woman walking in the forrest

If 90-minutes of physical activity along a hiking trail isn't part of your current vibe, simply lounging outdoors to soak up fresh air and sunshine has emotional and mental health benefits as well.

Sunlight exposure affects an important hormone in the human body called, melatonin which decreases when we expose our body to sunlight. This decrease helps humans wake up in the morning.

To contrast, with the absence of sunlight, melatonin levels rise which can make you feel more lethargic or sleepy.

Getting sunlight at the right time of day can lead to a better night’s sleep which in turn works as a natural mood booster according to, Dr. Michael Breus, PhD, The Sleep Doctor™

Additionally, breathing fresh air can raise oxygen levels in your brain, thereby boosting levels of serotonin which is a neurotransmitter in the brain. Serotonin plays a major role in altering mood.

Fortunately, the fresh air in Hochatown smells divine coming off the tall, wispy, pines along the banks of the Mountain Fork River.

If you’re lucky enough to live and work minutes from this Southeastern Oklahoma slice of outdoor paradise like myself, consider adding more frequent trips to Hochatown, in an effort to boost your mental and emotional healthcare routine.

Kiamichi Cabins, Broken Bow, Oklahoma

For the non locals, Hochatown boasts over 1,200 privately owned cabin rentals at varying price points, including this quaint little cottage, pictured above, known as "Tall Oaks" of Kiamichi Cabins.

Understanding time spent outdoors should never be used in-place-of your prescribed mental health plan, the great outdoors can be a vital component to an existing plan.

Finally, when it comes of taking charge of your emotional and mental health it’s important to be proactive.

One way you can be proactive is to visit with your primary care doctor or licensed mental health therapist about adding “nature” to your wellness routine. Once a licensed healthcare professional gives you the green light, do plan a trip to beautiful Hochatown, Oklahoma.

Your mental and emotional health- will thank you.

Misti Luke, LCSW maintains a small, private counseling practice in Broken Bow, Oklahoma where she provides in person and online counseling, clinical assessments and consultation. Her office is located twelve minutes from the entrance of Beavers Bend State Park. For correspondence or to schedule a consult


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