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Columnist discusses the benefits of getting outside and connecting with nature.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Tracey Schley Smashing Pumpkins released the hit song, "Bullet with Butterfly Wings," in 1995. The chorus of the song goes: "despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage." Fast forward 22 years later and while Billy Corgan and his pumpkins aren't entirely relevant, the message still holds a simple truth.

People are in an awful big hurry to get back into their cages. We rush from our beds to our cars, we take quick strides from our car into our office, all to return to the traveling cage, hours later to roll with the rest of the rat race — back to the safety and comfort of our home crate. We sleep on a square-shaped, padded and pillowed box.

When's the last time you went and played outside? Studies have shown that getting outdoors and enjoying the child-like enthusiasm and curiosity that comes with open-aired adventuring helps to relieve stress, lower blood pressure, soothe sore muscles and increase productivity. Hiking, bicycling, surfing — if you're immune to the Oregon Coast cold — kayaking, paddle-boarding … all of these activities are more than just healthy hobbies. It's my experience that these play days are good for my soul.

Have you taken an after-dinner stroll through your neighborhood lately? My favorite time to walk through my suburban streets is at sunset. I prefer the warmth and later hour that comes with spring and summer, but there's a certain stillness that accompanies the colder temperatures. The comfort of my soft gloves, the crisp air biting at my nose, that crunching sound of a cold earth beneath my feet, meeting a neighbor's new dog and a getting a furry introduction — that's good for my heart.

On a long drives, I take the time to stretch my legs and enjoy a viewpoint. Three-hour drives can be exhausting, but a daily commute can often be even more nerve-wracking. Portland traffic is in a surge and some supposed short rides can often become long, stressful excursions. When stuck in a lineup of red brake lights, maybe opt to take the next exit. Portland and its surrounding areas has almost as many parks as bad drivers, and they can remain in line while you go sit on a swing and breathe. Doing this is good for my mind.

Take the time to get outside. Find something to look at that you've never seen before. Enjoy the one thing that doesn't require batteries.

You take care of you, but allow Oregon and its natural setting to help.

Tracey Schley is a moderate hiker and advanced outdoor enthusiast. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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