“Nature spontaneously keeps us well. Do not resist her!”
Henry David Thoreau
I returned from Miraval last week, looked at the calendar and asked myself, “Where has July gone?” In just a few days I’ll be back on the road, headed to my next workshop at Omega in beautiful upstate New York. While I’m there, despite my busy schedule, I’ll make sure to spend some time walking and basking in the natural beauty of the rolling hills and lake of this fabulous wellness center.
Spending time in nature isn’t just good for the soul – it’s good for your health. A study in Japan, of “forest therapy” is based on the theory that because humans evolved in nature, it’s where we feel most comfortable. Physical and mental benefits can be achieved by synchronizing our rhythms with the rhythms of nature.
The study has proven that leisurely forest walks (with cell phone turned off or left in the car), result in a 12.4 percent decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, a seven percent decrease in sympathetic nerve activity, a 1.4 percent decrease in blood pressure, and a 5.8 percent decrease in heart rate. Not only that, but participants also report better moods and lower anxiety after a walk in the forest.
It’s no surprise that spending time in nature is key to your spiritual, mental and physical health. Wherever you live and whatever your summer plans might be, there’s not another moment to waste. Get out of the house and spend some time enjoying the warm weather and beauty of the great outdoors!
The idea with shinrin-yoku, inspired by ancient Shinto and Buddhist practices, is to let nature enter your body through all five senses, Bring all of your senses into play and try out a few of these ideas:
1) Journal outdoors:
Take a few minutes out of each day and sit outside with your journal. While you’re outside you can spend some time meditating, listening to the birds or just jump right into your writing. You may choose to write about what’s going on around you, what you hear, and what you see. Or you may choose to write about how you’re feeling. Doing this daily will give you a specific time that you’ll spend outdoors.
2) Look up:
Enjoy nature by learning something new about the birds in your area or the stars in the sky – pick up a guidebook, or download a smart phone app to help you identify birds, or stars and constellations. You can stay in your own backyard, or go off on a weekend excursion to spot some new ones. Either way, bird watching and stargazing will give you a whole new reason to be outside!
3) Enjoy the night:
Grab a friend (or not) and take a long walk in the moonlight – look at the stars and listen to the sounds of the night – the moonlight will cast a new light on everything. You don’t have to be in a rural or suburban area to enjoy nature – urban areas offer the opportunity to head outside and enjoy the night air and the stars too!
4) Mix up your exercise routine:
Put your gym membership on hold and exercise outdoors. Swimming, kayaking and stand up paddle boarding are all great ways to work out without overheating. Try walking in the early morning or evening—explore a new trail or park in your neighborhood. No matter what style of exercise you choose you’ll benefit from the sun on your face (wear a hat or some sunscreen!) and the wind in your hair.
5) Let the outside in:
Pick up some of your favorite flowers, and open the doors and windows to let in the summer breeze. I’ve picked up a few pots of my favorite herbs and every time I walk by them I get a fresh waft of basil and mint. They’re a great addition to summer beverages and salads. Now is also a good time to put out collections of shells and rocks from past vacations, or look for some new ones.
6) Go camping:
You know I’m a big supporter of the joy of sleeping outside- I’ve slept outside every night for years. There’s nothing like it to cement your connection with nature and mother Earth. Even if you don’t do it every night, break out the tent and sleep outdoors at least once this summer. You might want to start the evening with a campfire – even if it’s just in your own backyard.
9) Exercise your creativity:
Set up an easel and paint, or grab your sketchpad or phone camera and capture the natural beauty that’s around you. Take a walk on the beach and collect driftwood, stones or shells. Bring them home and arrange your collection on a shelf or coffee table or frame a mirror or photo with driftwood. You’ll keep the carefree memory of summer all year long.
I hope these ideas have inspired you! Please share your comments below and on Facebook and let me know your favorite way of refreshing and recharging yourself, naturally!