I named my clinic Whole Woman Health because healthcare for the WHOLE woman (and man, too) is something I value. To be fully well and balanced, it’s essential we tend to the three elements of well-being – mind, body and spirit. And while each element contributes equally to wellness, we tend to live our day-to-day lives on auto-pilot, seeking quick fixes and that deliver immediate gratification easily found in our drive-thru society. As a result, we only partially address one element without clearly understanding the interconnectedness of our whole being.When I ask my patients “How are you doing?” they know I’m asking about more than their physical aches and pains. They know I want to learn how they are mentally and spiritually, too. Most of us recognize that mental and emotional pain can create imbalances that impact daily life as illness or disease, yet we often bury such pain for fear of not appearing to have it all together. When imbalances occur, one of my “prescriptions” for realigning mind, body and spirit is to spend more time in nature.
My encouragement to do so isn’t simply because I’m a nature junkie who enjoys camping, kayaking, hiking, climbing and canoeing. It’s also because numerous studies illustrate the spectrum of health benefits from being in nature. The Japanese practice forest bathing or shinrin-yoku. Shinrin in Japanese means “forest,” and yoku means “bath.” So shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through our senses.
You might be curious and wondering, “How does one try this?”
Here arethe four steps to embark upon once you decide to venture beyond the “boxes” in which we live and work and experience the ritual of walking in a forest setting and letting the setting fill your senses.
- Find a place where there are trees. Leave your phone and camera behind.
- Walk aimlessly and slowly. Allow your body to guide you. Listen to where it leads you. Put aside the desire to go somewhere; you’re not going anywhere. You’re simply there to savor all that the great outdoors offers.
- Engage your five senses. Unlock the power of the forest by letting nature enter through your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands and feet. You might expand the effect by taking off your shoes if you’ve found a spot to stay for a bit and you don’t see any hazards-for grounding. Give conscious thought to what you are hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting and feeling.
- Accept the sixth sense. Once you become mindful and engaged with your five senses, immerse yourself in the joy and calm of your surroundings. A state of mind is your sixth sense. If you feel a spiritual presence you might ask a question!
- Reflect. Once out of your revelry, you might journal any messages or insights you received.
Forest bathing can be done in any weather – hot or cold; rain, sunshine or snow. You don’t even need a forest. Once you have learned how, you can enjoy the same benefits in a park or garden! Did you know that by choosing to spend more time in nature, you set yourself apart from the average American who, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), spends 93 percent of his or her time indoors?
What are you waiting for?