Baby Steps: Overcoming Depression with Small Stints in Nature

In 2017 my wife Chelsea and I were fortunate enough to welcome our daughter into the pack.

Long story short, that first year was extremely difficult for me. I dove into a depression which turns out is pretty normal for fathers and there isn't much help for it. It was only when I started taking small moments in nature, even urban environments, that I began to overcome this depression.

To add insult to injury, I felt utterly ashamed of the fact that I was depressed. Me... an outdoor professional... who pushes continually for people to go outside because it can help resolve so many mental and emotional issues... here I was refusing to take my own advice and I was spiraling deep into depression. The most nature time I got was walking from my house to the car, and the car to my office. 

I was stuck. It got pretty scary for me.


Something changed at about 7-months though. My sweet girl had gained weight and could sit up. She could now fit in her Kid Comfort baby carrier

We started to take short walks around our apartment courtyard, the local parks, to the zoo and aquarium. The goal was to take small nature moments to be around dirt, trees, and the outside air.

Chelsea forced me to get my hiking boots on and we went on a short hike to Lisa Falls in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah.

The next week we went a bit further with Donut Falls. The next week was Twin Lakes. After that was a backpacking trip, then a day climbing in Big Cottonwood, and a day advocating for our public lands at the Utah State Capitol.

Soon I began to feel more like myself.

Keith Howells with his daughter advocating for public lands in Salt Lake City

I continue to plan and add these small nature moments into my day. Yeah, I have to make sure I put them in my calendar/to-do list or they won’t happen.

Last year was probably the hardest, darkest time of my life, but talking with my spouse and chatting with a counselor, having a support system that encouraged me onward and now typing this out I can’t help but think it’s all worth it somehow. 

Those small moments, even among the trees of the apartment courtyard, did wonders for me and my family.

Check out more from the Howells family here:

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