The first Wednesday of April is National Walking Day, sponsored by the American Heart Association. Numerous studies haven proven the health benefits of exercise, but most of us don’t need a study to tell us how good we feel after a nice long walk. Somehow it invigorates us, our minds become more clear, and our self-esteem is raised a notch. Why not have a day designated to lacing your sneakers up and moving?

Living with a one year old black lab mix (Minka), in a place that lacks a yard, naturally requires a few walks a day. I will admit that I probably would lack the motivation to go on so many walks if I didn't have her. Some days I wish I could just let her out, but most days the forced exercise is refreshing (even in below 0 temps). No matter what I have going on in my life, her wagging tail and goofy grin, dissipate the negativity. Once we hit the pavement, she thinks she is in control. A bunny here, a squirrel there and the princess decides she’s a hunter. I never let her come close, but she looks forward to trying to chase them. She pretends to be tough, but then a shadow spooks her and she grabs on to her leash. When she was smaller, she would stop and demand I pick her up. Now a hug will suffice.

Dogs approach us from the other direction and she lays down, wagging her entire bottom. In her eyes, everyone is her friend and playing with other canines makes her world. She’s made a lot of friends on our walks. Sometimes, if it’s dusk, we’ll see the same owl in a big tree; and early mornings we encounter the Llama. Ms. "Thinks She’s Tough" is terrified of the Llama and makes a wide circle, pulling me into a run. Sometimes we see a herd of deer, nesting ducks, or a flock of geese. Lately, we’ve come across a Heron hunting in the ditches.

Minka continues to remind me to stay in awe of nature. This dog even sniffs flowers. People will often see us with our noses in the air, staring at whatever bird is above. All things in nature are worthy of our attention.

What I'm getting at is, walks don’t have to be something to dread. It’s astonishing the beauty you will encounter and the friendships you could make (even if they have names like Shadow, Butters, Oogie, and Gouda). Use today to start a habit of going on a walk at some point in your day. It could be early in the morning, at lunch, or after dinner. It may be a brisk 10 minutes or a longer 45 minutes; but either way you will benefit. With the constant bombardment of stress in our lives, we all could stand to take a daily breather and move in nature. I wouldn’t trade my forced walks for anything, because I feel the effects. My senses are stronger, I'm more aware of my breath and posture, and I stay grateful for the beauty that surrounds.

It's no wonder Your True Nature has found so much advice in nature. The wisdom is out there for the taking. Go walk and breathe it in!

Advice from a Great Blue Heron: Wade into Life.

Advice from a Woodland Duck: Dive into Life

Advice from an Owl: Be Observant

Advice from a Woodland: Stretch Your Limbs

Advice from a Dog: Delight in the simple joys of a long walk