Being in nature has proven benefits to the health and wellness of your whole family. Especially if you practice Shinrun Yoku (or Forest Bathing), which is a way to immerse all of your senses while walking in forests and other naturally healing environments.
This weekend I had a wonderful experience of Forest Bathing. As I walked slowly down the forest trail, all my senses were open. I inhaled sweet, pungent smells, listened deeply to the symphony of the creek and the birds, and gazed deeply at the trees – with the awe and wonder of a child.
I tapped into memories of being a child playing in the woods, collecting berries, leaves and other treasures to create works of art. As a child I played a lot in creeks and in the woods, making up all sorts of imaginative games and stories. I was at home in nature. I still am, though my body and soul are constantly crying for more.
I now sit in front of a computer most days for hours. I am fortunate – I have a beautiful river down the road, a five-minute drive to the redwoods, and a 25-minute drive to the ocean. But I don’t get there nearly enough. I love my work, but as I’m sitting here writing, I’m planning my next adventure into the woods.
What natural environments do you have near you? Where can you take your kids to experience the wonder and awe of the natural world? Kids need to be connected to nature, and science has proven it to be a big stress reliever for everyone. Woods, forests, streams, rivers, lakes and the ocean are the perfect places for energetic kids who need to be more focused and settled. Nature has a calming effect on people of all ages.
Even in rainy or snowy weather, you can find a tree and breathe in the phytoncides. These are natural chemicals secreted by trees that decrease levels of cortisol (the stress hormone). Phytoncide exposure also increases your immune function to help keep you and your kids from getting sick. There are more than 100 different types of these phytoncides that can be detected in the air of a forest.
Richard Louv introduced the term “Nature-Deficit Disorder” in his book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. The treatment is simple. Get your kids out in nature. It’s good medicine!
How about you, mama, are you tired or stressed? Feeling pressured with too much to do? There is a lot to worry about these days. A simple walk in the woods can soothe and improve your mood and calm your stress.
Create your own Nature Club! Here is a toolkit that gives you everything you need to know:
If you can’t find a certified practitioner in your area, you can get a free starter kit to doing Forest Bathing on your own:
If you live in Sonoma County, CA (where I live) and would like to experience Forest Bathing, contact Karen Sapper, a certified practitioner.