Posts Tagged ‘forest bathing’

The transformational power of walking your dog mindfully

Walking your dog is so great in so many ways: It’s excellent exercise, you spend quality time with your pooch doing what they love best, you get to breathe in fresh air, and dog-walking has even been shown to reduce stress and build your sense of community. But here’s an easy way to amp up your daily ritual and make it even more powerful: walk your dog mindfully.

When we think of mindfulness, we think of stillness, meditation, awareness and savoring this very moment with a full heart. Now incorporate these mindful intentions next time you walk your dog—and get ready to watch the many benefits unfold!

1. Slow down. If you walk the same loop around your neighborhood every day and you’re on autopilot, take a different path and consciously slow down. Instead of seeing the walk as a doggie bathroom break, awaken your senses and reconnect with nature around you. Feel the earth beneath your feet. Notice the new things around you. Breathe. Pay attention to how the flowers and trees smell, or maybe the crisp autumn air from a distant log burning in a fireplace somewhere. Listen to bird calls or the sound of the wind. Feel the sun on your skin. Follow your dog’s lead as he walks with balance and harmony on the earth. Getting out of your head and into the natural world in this way is very healing for both mind and body. (For more on the powerful healing properties of spending time in nature, check out my article on the Japanese art of “forest bathing.”)

2. Connect with the now. On this mindful walk with your dog, do not worry about what happened yesterday or in the past, or stress over what’s to come. Yes, this is difficult to do—but focus on setting your intention to focus only on this moment before you. This exercise in mindfulness allows you to free your mind and find a quiet place where true healing, inspiration and problem-solving can begin to grow.

It may help you to remember the five Reiki precepts.

For today only …
Do not anger.
Do not worry.
Be grateful.
Practice diligently in your work.
Be compassionate to yourself and others.

3. Make mindful dog-walking your new habit. In our chaotic, busy lives, the reality is that, for most of us, mindful dog-walking will be difficult to do each and every time. But if you aim for 30 minutes three times a week, you’ll be incorporating more mindfulness into your life than ever before. And pretty soon something amazing will begin to happen: You’ll find it easier than ever to access that space of inner peace that our animals just naturally reside in—especially when times get tough.

Have you ever walked your dog mindfully?

Ahh … time for forest bathing!

I think everyone has experienced this (am I right?): You have a terrible day (or week, or month), then you go to the woods or your favorite trail and … almost magically, you feel a noticeable lift in your spirits. I’ve experienced this so many times that I truly make an effort now to listen to my inner self when I’m needing to reconnect with the natural world and seek out peaceful “me” time in nature.

I’m not the only one. “Forest bathing,” as it’s called, is an actual, real practice with scientifically measurable health benefits (including reducing stress and depression, lowering blood pressure and upping your immune system). The term is a literal translation of the Japanese term shinrin-yoku. And how wonderful is this: Japan has nearly 50 official Forest Therapy trails.

Elizabeth Weil in the December issue of Vogue writes, “In 1982, the Japanese Forestry Agency put forth the idea that if the nation’s stressed and depressed citizens—the Japanese have among the highest suicide rates in the world—would just walk their forest therapy trails, they would soak up the sensory splendor and soothe their weary minds.” Studies have since been conducted worldwide, and the results have been so positive that many are rethinking how a holistic approach like this can help treat a variety of psychological and emotional problems.

One of the leaders in the ecopsychology movement is Richard Louv, author, journalist, Audubon Medal winner and co-founder of The Children & Nature Network, which aims to get kids outside and reconnected to nature. He’s written several books, including these (which look like great reads!):

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder: On how vitally important it is to “unplug” our kids and get them back playing outside.

last child

The Nature Principle: Reconnecting With Life in a Virtual Age: Offering inspiration and explanations on why adults need nature, too (not just kids!).

nature principle 2

What are your thoughts on forest bathing? As for me, I think I have some “redwoods bathing” to get to. …

{P.S. This article offers more info on forest bathing experiments, plus 10 tips for ensuring a “proper” forest bathing experience (scroll down a bit to get to the tips).}