Forest Bathing

I’m a PNW girl through and through.  Born and raised in the shadow of Mountain Rainier (Mt. Tacoma), soaked in the rain from the puget sound as the clouds drop their load to rise over the Cascades.  I’m not saying I always jump for glee at the sight of another gray, wet day mid January, but I also pout in the summer if the temps raise above 78 degrees.

So here we are in September after a longer and hotter than usual summer.  The weather took a quick shift a couple weeks ago. While the days are still warm, the evenings and mornings are cool and there is a lot less sunshine and even some much missed rain (I know I’ll kick myself for saying that in a few months).

All this is to say, Leif and I (and Sochi) love being outdoors.  Running, walking, gardening, digging, climbing, jumping in puddles and the likes.  This is often done in the ally ways and parks around our urban home.  But once a week or so, I make an effort to drive the 15 minutes to one of our old growth forests we are so blessed to have nearby and spend some time in the forest.  Sochi is thrilled to be off leash–she sprints up and down the path at full speed, stops to sniff, checks out squirrels and greets any passerby with a bum wiggle and plea for a belly rub.  Leif runs, rolls, climbs over “tree fall”, points out moss, birds calling, takes sit breaks in the dirt, whatever his heart leads him to do.  Then there’s mama, who has to make a conscious effort to breathe, to notice, to relax and enjoy…to let go of my do-list, stop looking at my watch or phone and just be in the forest with two beings that love me.

Forest Bathing, or Shinrin-yoku, is a Japanese term that describes just being in the forest and soaking in its mental and physiological healing powers.  Sound hocus-pokesie to you?  There is scientific data that suggests its not a bunch of hippie propaganda.  In fact, research suggests that forest bathing reduces blood pressure, promotes lower concentrations of cortisol  (stress hormones), lowers pulse rate, and promotes greater parasympathetic nerve activity (you chill the F down).

So, maybe, just maybe, you just need some time in the forest?  How can you make this part of your week?  It doesn’t have to be deep into the unknown, even some mindful breathes and gazing at trees and birds in a local park will do wonders!  So, take a break from your desk, go outside and find some trees!

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The Swamp Land of the Soul

Saturday, I was supposed to do a 21 mile training run.  It began with me trying to find some dry running clothes–its been a wet week and all my warm running clothes were WET.  Sigh, I slipped on some cropped running tights, layered up a few lightweight long sleeve tops and set off in the wet muckiness.  Within 2 miles, snow began to mix with the rain.  By mile 5, my hands HURT like CRAZY.

In 2004, I climbed Mt. Rainier with a group of people from my university.  We had to stop for longer than intended to switch up the rope teams as some people decided to turn back down to camp.  We sat there for a good 40 minutes and by the time we were ready to move out, I was sick to my stomach because my hands were so cold.   As I tackled the first hill at Point Defiance Park, I felt that same sick feeling coming over me.  I felt a lump growing in my throat–I was fighting back tears.  I thought, “Surely I am going to die!”  For the next 4 miles I went back and forth, “Come on, be tough and finish the 21 miles.” and then, “Melissa, you don’t have to prove anything!  16 is sufficient!”  and then, “You can work out inside this afternoon!” and then “What the hell is wrong with you!  16 miles! You don’t need to work out again this afternoon!” Sigh, and so it went over and over again.
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