“Wilderness is not a luxury but necessity of the human spirit.” –Edward Abbey
Two of the past three days have been significant strides for me; I have been outside on thirty-minute walks. A few months ago, we moved to a new home that is a stone’s throw from the lake and a few ponds. The problem is is that I have not been able to enjoy it. Over the summer and fall, my back had been causing me major problems. It got so bad that I spent most of my days on the floor. Finally, last week, I got a cortisone shot. This has hipped a lot, but I am still far from perfect. I have missed being outdoors a lot.
My time outside allows me to think. It gives me clarity. It rejuvenates my soul. By being outside, I find more peace in my day, more joy in life, and greater physical health. It is refreshing like a daily bath. The Japanese coined the term Shinrin-Yoku (森林浴), or Forest Bathing. It is the idea of spending free time outside in nature. I am craving a good forest bath.
Due to the issues with my back, I have been limited with what my body would allow. In early November, it got so bad that walking and biking were both out of the question. Now, I still have some tightness and nerve pain in the buttocks and lower leg that I can only go on short walks, and it is too cold now to get on the bike. I will return to see the doctor on Monday, but until then, I rejoice in my short forest baths around the pond and along the lake.
I have watched my wife enjoy some awesome outdoor adventures recently, which I am grateful for, that make me hungry to get back out.
I love living so close to places that allow me to bathe in the forest. I was just introduced to the term forest Bathing by author and philosopher Ryan Holiday in his book Stillness is The key. This is not a new concept, being popularized in Japan in the 1980s. This is the first that I have heard it, but I have been an avid believer of this practice for several years. The outdoors has so often been my sanctuary.
“How much cleaner we would feel if we took these baths as often as we took hot showers. How much more present we would be if we saw what was around us.” -Ryan Holiday
When I was getting back into running in 2008, I would often drive 20-30 minutes from my home to a trail for a 30-45 minute run. My wife thought that I was crazy. She said that we had perfectly good asphalt to run on out our door, so why waste up to an hour in travel for a short run. I couldn’t explain it besides just that I liked it better. She was certainly running at that time as she was a top triathlete in the state at the time. She has since embraced that commute to the trails.
It is nice to be outside. Walking around a suburban neighborhood or the busy streets of the city can be energizing but is pale in comparison to a single-track trail amidst towering pines or a red rock jungle in the desert. These are moments that our minds and bodies yearn for. However, there is something more when we separate ourselves from the noise and chaos of the urban jungle, and we escape to the seclusion of the forest. This is not anecdotal either.
There are many benefits to becoming a forest bather. Many of the greatest artists, statesmen, thinkers, and professionals have attributed their success, or a portion of it, to their time away in the outdoors. In the 1990s, the concept went to science. The results have been astounding. Time in nature has been proven to reduce stress, decrease blood pressure, improve mood and sleep, and increase recovery, focus, and energy level.
These results should be enough to encourage us all to do more forest bathing and find ways to make the outdoors more accessible for all. I love the outdoors. I have missed being on the trails and in the trees. I have seen it directly affect my mood. I am grateful to be recovering. Soon, let us get out, and forest bathe together.