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Taking a "Forest Bath"

During our recent hike at Angle Fly Preserve, Georgie spontaneously ran over and hugged this tree. I don't know why he did it, but I followed him and somebody took a photo. This silly moment was the highlight of our walk and we laughed once again when we saw this picture, which I'll cherish forever.

We all know it's fun to explore the natural environment and I try to get outdoors as often as I can- preferably in the woods. I believe the forest can be a calming, comforting and peaceful antidote to our chaotic lives. It's a way to unplug from our schedules, discover and embrace the present moment.

It seems I'm not alone in this kind of thinking.

To improve their health, the Japanese have practiced the experience of taking in the calm and joy of the forest. Their term for it is called, "Shinrin-yoku" which literally translated means "forest bathing." They consider it an important part of preventive health care and regularly explore the beauty and serenity of the forest through their senses .

Studies show that seeing, feeling, smelling, hearing and tasting the glorious, often subtle wonders of our natural surroundings, can have a profound effect on our well-being.

Time Magazine had a good article about this in their May 1, 2018 issue and there's a lot of other information about it on the internet. But to get started, you don't need to to prepare anything in order to gain the positive effects of "forest bathing." Just go to a nature preserve, a wooded park or nearby forest. It's truly a pastime you can share with your grandchildren. We dressed for tick prevention and also brought a magnifying glass and a compass.

When you're in the forest with a grandchild you can walk quietly or prompt them to notice more of their surroundings with comments and questions. "Look at all the different colors of green on this tree! Let's see if we can smell the earth. Does it smell good? Feel the moss. Is it rough or smooth? I hear a woodpecker. Can you hear that tapping sound? Can you tell where it's coming from? Now, let's be silent again. Do you hear anything else?"

The "Shinrin-Yoku" website claims that the health benefits are significant and include:

  • "Boosted immune system functioning...

  • Reduced blood pressure

  • Reduced stress

  • Improved mood

  • Increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD

  • Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness

  • Increased energy level

  • Improved sleep"

Today's kids are involved with so much screen time, homework and other sedentary activities and it can be a challenge to motivate them to come along for a walk in the woods. But if you can get there, I hope you'll decide to take a forest bath and hug a tree... with or without the kids!

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