A few weeks ago, I was hiking on a very remote trail in the Adirondacks. Several miles from a trailhead, at the intersection of two trails, I stopped by a stream to admire the view and have a snack.
I hadn’t seen another hiker all day but after a few moments, two hikers came upon me. Lo and behold, one of them was a current client. The obvious jokes were exchanged… He said that he had hiked deep into the wilderness to escape his mediator and I said I fled to the woods to escape my clients… But more importantly, he told me that immersing himself in nature was keeping him grounded during his stressful divorce.
The subject of caring for one’s self during divorce is one that I discuss daily with my clients. Stress and trauma can cause us to lose sleep, eat too much, eat too little, and develop other habits that, in the long run, are harmful to us. My advice to my clients is to do something for yourself each day that is completely self- serving – whether it be treating yourself to an ice cream cone, watching a movie or, my favorite, taking a walk in the woods.
So imagine my delight to find out recently that there is a Japanese practice known as Shinrin-yoku or “Forest Bathing”, which is the medicine of simply being in the forest. This practice is used as preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. A quick review of various sites on the internet show that there have been many scientific studies that are confirming the healing effects of simply being in wild and natural areas. Simply put, if a person visits a natural area and walks through the landscape in a relaxed way, there are a slew of physiological and psychological benefits that can be achieved.
There are studies that found that those who participate in forest bathing had lower blood pressure, lower heart rates, improved mood and lower stress levels overall than those who walked through an urban setting. There are also studies that show that forest-bathing therapies can increase the production of a certain type of white blood cells that fight infections and tumor growth. (In Japan and Korea, these therapies are actually covered by health insurance!)
I regularly suggest to my clients that they take a few moments and reflect on how they can take better care of themselves during difficult times. As an avid outdoorsman, I have always advised my clients that there is nothing that a walk in the woods can’t cure. Apparently, I was onto something!