This summer was a difficult one for me. There were the usual culprits of work related pressures, family related challenges, running set backs, and the stress (and joy) of my oldest going off to college. But added on top of all of that, my father was battling Stage IV Lung Cancer. His diagnosis was in March, with an optimistic prognosis for a few good years. However, he had many struggles. He battled throughout the summer, but ultimately lost his fight in October, only about six months after his diagnosis. When the stress and sadness of my dad’s illness, (plus everyday challenges) got me down, I turned to the healing power of nature to help me.
It seems simple enough: take a walk outside and you will feel better. Is that really true? It is: you can harness the healing power of nature just by walking outside. In 1982, Japan created the term “shinrin-yoku”, or, “forest bathing” and encouraged the public to get out in nature. They later followed up with scientific studies to determine the mental and physical effects of walking among nature. What did they find out? In a nutshell, after time in nature people feel less stressed, more rested, and happier. The studies also show it boosts immune systems, reduces stress hormones, enhances mental wellness, and bolsters brain health.
A Walk in The Woods
How did that work out for me? It definitely helped me get through a difficult time. Even though I am often outside and run the trails frequently, taking just a walk on a trail was much more therapeutic. Instead of going for a trail run, I just walked. No Garmin to track distance or pace, and no hurry. It’s amazing what you notice in the woods when you take the time to slow down. I noticed sights and sounds that I normally would pass right by. A few minutes or a few hours walking among the trees did wonders for my happiness and well being.
On the day I received the news that my dad had passed away, I was frittering away the time feeling sad and not knowing who to reach out to. I glanced at my dog, NiKYO. He gave me a look that seemed to say, “I know how you can feel better.” I grabbed his leash, filled my CamelBak, and we went to the park for a trail walk. We walked a long time that afternoon, about 2 1/2 hours. And with each step I felt a lifting of my sadness and had happy memories of my father with me the whole way.
Find Your Nature
I encourage you to walk in nature to access it’s healing powers. Even 15 minutes walking in nature has positive benefits. In Japan, they have designated forest paths for “shinrin-yoku” (they look amazing!) but being in any natural environment has benefits. Find a local trail, park, or even just a sidewalk that passes under a lot of trees. Happy trails…