We all experience it at one time or another, but how do we know when it is in control, and when we have lost control? The death of a young nurse from Ohio was a wake-up call to the health professions and others that long hours, lack of sleep, lack of hydration and more is just not working. So, what is your role in dealing with fatigue? What do you do to overcome the challenge, and is it working for you?
So how do you bathe without water? Exactly what is Forest bathing and why don’t you get wet?
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, we learn that – In Japan, a forest bathing trip, called Shinrinyoku in Japanese, is a short, leisurely visit to a forest and is regarded as being similar to natural aromatherapy. So, what is aromatherapy? Aromatherapy uses volatile plant materials (essential oils), and other compounds to improve one’s mind, mood, cognition and/or health.
So why Forest Bathing? We all seek rest and relaxation; we all seek the good lifestyle. In today’s society, we need to take time for relaxation. We know that being out in the fresh air, in a forest preserve or park, invigorates the body and the cells within that body – enhancing their activity. What we don’t know is that 74% of physician office visits are related to stress-induced symptoms, so if could eliminate some of those stressors, we might start to feel better. Forest bathing could, and should, be the first step.
A seasonal experience…
And, along comes forest bathing – the ideal walk in the woods – and it works any time of the year. But, now is a perfect time to get started. The days are longer and we are spending more time outside than ever before. For many of us, the economy has limited the kinds of activities that we can do solo or as a family or group. Think about it – n the spring and summer, during allergy season, spending more time in nature could have surprising health benefits. In the fall, we get a double bonus – not just a walk in the woods for fresh air and the peace that it brings to us, but the colorful array of leaves and nature. In the winter, the ground is covered with frost or snow, yet the air that we breathe is clean, cool, and invigorating. In a series of studies, scientists found that when people swap their concrete walls for some time with Mother Nature – forests, parks and other places with plenty of trees – they experience increased immune function.
A family experience…
The entire family can benefit from a walk in the woods. The kids will breathe good air, enjoy the benefits of nature, collect leaves, and scrapbook them when they get home. Parents will enjoy being outside with those nearest and dearest to them. They will enjoy nature through the eyes and ears of a child – as only children can see it.
The Russian forests…
I had the privilege of working in Russia for nearly ten years in the healthcare sector, and while I stayed in the city and used public transportation, I often thought about getting out of town for the weekend and enjoying the natural beauties of the country. My colleagues made it a point to visit their country homes on the weekends – yes, even in the winter – to sit by a fire while inside, but to experience nature in the forest outside. And, I had the joy of joining them on many occasions – walking through the forest – and revisiting nature. What a difference it made in my own life. I was working 100 hour weeks, often traveling between cities and between countries in a week’s time. I needed to relax, and I did not make the time to do so. My ‘forest bathing’ experience restored my own well-being and taught me an important lesson about self-care. You cannot care for others until you take care of yourself!
One study published in January 2011 included data on 280 healthy people in Japan. On one day, some people were instructed to walk through a forest or wooded area for a few hours, while others walked through a city area. On the second day, they traded places. The scientists found that being among plants produced “lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, and lower blood pressure,” among other things. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17903349)
Although the University of Sussex claims a nature walk reduces stress only by 42% (as determined by pulse rate) while reading just six minutes brings your stress levels down by 68%, the side benefits of walking through the woods are very compelling. So, the next time that you are facing burnout and need to switch gears for awhile, walk away from your desk and/or your wired device, and head out for the nearest forest preserve to enjoy nature.
In addition to mental and emotional well-being, more than half of the most commonly prescribed drugs include compounds derived from nature – for example Taxol, used against ovarian and breast cancer, is derived from yew trees, while Xylitol, which can inhibit dental cavities, is produced from hardwood bark.
Your own experience…
Create your own experience with forest bathing! What can you do if you are not near a forest preserve? Simply remove your shoes and walk barefoot in your own backyard.
- Experience the earth and the ground and take time to meditate on your blessings
- Be mindful of your life, your health, your body and your being
- Make forest bathing a ritual within your family and within your home
- Get back to nature…it is easy…it is cost-effective…and the benefits are real
To salt or not to salt – that is the question!
Salt sneaks into our daily diets in seemingly small amounts, and yet, it truly does add up.
In October, I completed the Cardiovascular Health Improvement Project (CHIP), and while the focus was on avoiding processed foods and changing one’s relationship with food, I learned a great deal about how much salt I actually consumed. And, keep in mind that my kids grew up without a salt shaker, and we have none for the table. We only use salt in cooking…and that is not even the real deal.
So, where does the salt come from? The bulk of our salt intake comes from eating processed foods! Have you ever carefully read the ingredients on a frozen food package and noticed the amount of sodium? A whopping 77% of our sodium intake comes from processed or prepared foods. What does that mean? Even if you limit the use of the sale shaker, you still stand a good chance of having too much salt in your daily diet. Only 12% comes from natural sources, 6% is added while eating (do you reach for the salt shaker before you even taste your food), and 5% is added while cooking. The recommended intake is about 1500 – 2400 mg a day for healthy adults. Remember, one teaspoon of salt has 2,325 mg of sodium – so you are done with your daily requirement.
For more information, see http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sodium/nu00284
I meditate – do you? Meditation is often credited with helping people feel more focused and energetic, but are the benefits measurable? Yes – they are! Meditation involves more than naps or exercise.
At the Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, Dr. Prashant Kaul of the University of Kentucky took 12 students who did not meditate and taught them the basics in two short sessions.
Then, over a series of weeks, the students were asked to come in and take a test devised to measure skills like reaction time. The tests involved a series of visual cues on a display screen that the volunteers had to react to by pushing the correct button. The students were asked to take the tests in mid- to late afternoon, when people tend to be sleepiest. They did so before and after 40 minutes of meditating, napping or exercising, or after taking caffeine. Napping produced poor results, presumably because of “sleep inertia,” the researchers said. Caffeine helped, and exercise was unpredictable.
Earlier studies have found that people are awake while meditating but that their brains undergo changes similar to patterns found in sleep. Some studies have found that people who meditate a lot report sleeping less, so the researchers were curious to see if meditation could serve the same function as sleep. The results support the idea that it can. In fact, when some of the students were asked to skip a night’s sleep and then take the test, the researchers said, meditation was even more helpful. They said they did not know if caffeine and meditation combined would be even better.
Meditation is the practice of focusing your attention and mind on something that makes you feel calm and relaxed and gives you clarity about your life. The medical community is becoming much more accepting of meditation as a legitimate treatment for many different medical problems, such as anxiety, stress and depression. It’s being used treat all kinds of chronic pain. People are using meditation to try to quit smoking. It’s also being used for alcohol and drug addiction. And the National Institutes of Health is even recommending meditation for high blood pressure. Studies have show also that it can help women who suffer from PMS, menopausal hot flashes and even infertility.
Meditation beats medication – and these points are important reminders:
- Meditation can be a form of medication
- Meditation helps your enter a relaxation state that can lower your heart rate, your blood pressure, slow down your breathing and relax your muscles
- Meditation can be a “reset button” for your body
- Meditation is something that most people can safely try on their own
- Take time each day to meditate and connect with the silence within yourself
- Prayer and meditation is a way to be at peace
- Developing a deeper sense of peace and direction will give you a clearer sense of purpose at work and at home
Exercise is a form of meditation
- Chinese medicine practitioners often recommend medical Qi Gong, a form of Chinese healing exercises
- Qi Gong focuses on breathing and movement of Qi to increase physical harmony and strength and establish spiritual/emotional peace
- Exercise helps you to refocus and regroup
1. Sit or lie in a comfortable position with your eyes closed.
2. Simply focus on your breathing, focusing all your attention on sensation of air moving in and out of your body.
3. The other thing you can do is repeat a single word or phrase either silently or by whispering. 4. Do this for about 20 minutes every day if you can
As you begin, your mind may wander, but don’t despair, simply refocus your mind and try again.