[Part 3 of a 4-part series on Ecopsychology]
(Chuckanut Trail, Bellingham, WA – October 2013)
We’ve all heard about the health benefits of walking, but walking outdoors has been found to help people more than indoor walking in countless surveys. One of the reasons you will not find me near a gym or a mall. Here is a great East Coast resource for classes, interviews, and research expanded on the theme: Hiking Research – Connecting People to the Restorative Power of Nature.
It makes my heart soar to know a wave of folks everywhere is focusing on this theme, People Outside Walking and Benefits of Green Exercise out of Australia and UK. On the one hand, charging money for walking seems controversial. On the other, we pay big money for health gadgets every day when the most effective route to health may be using our feet to bring ourselves to our natural home.
Boy do I believe in the magic of this one! In three days I will be attempting to walk a marathon distance of 26 miles (Erin’s 26). Here’s what you should know. I’m not certain I’ll be able to do it. After completing 20 miles two months ago, 23 miles three years ago, and learning how the mind plays a game that makes anything horizontal look inviting by mile 20, my success at finally completing a marathon distance remains to be seen. If it happens, photos will be posted.
Thanks to lifelong asthma, teen years in a plastic back brace 23/7, watching my own child overcome advanced stage cancer, a life theme of mine has been fascination with overcoming the body, rather than inhabiting it graciously. Perhaps this is why I seek such challenges. Someday I hope to make peace with the container, but even if my attempts are futile in this lifetime, the Earth will succeed. : ) Oooh, I just had a flash of an image of all humans passing into the Earth as seeds of peace – but I digress. There are few things that make me happier (even in cold) than the opportunity to spend a day outdoors soaking in the living scenery.
For those who need encouragement to walk, if an asthmatic, overweight, middle-aged woman with a sedentary job can attempt such a long walk, then anyone out there can try a saunter around a block each day and see how it improves their life. Oh, and if so moved, feel free to add to the $1375 my wonder peeps have contributed, until January 10, 2014, at this link: Ultimate Hike for Children’s Cancer Research.
(Tillamook Head Trail, N. Oregon Coast – June 2013)
2) Bathe in the forest if you can.
Shinrin-Yoku dot org can lead you to latest research and a training model for forest bathing guides. The Japanese Society of Forest Medicine established in 2007 has conducted a number of experiments on the immune system in response to walking through forests. The most remarkable finding to me is that “natural killer cells” (white blood cells that fight viral infection and cancer) were boosted for up to 30 days following three forest bathing episodes. To read the full study published in 2010 in the Journal of Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine, look here:
I have been fortunate enough to live half my life in the last edge of the United States that is heavily forested, but if you have no easy access to the immune-boosting chemicals given off by forest environs, you can at least listen to my favorite piece of real estate on the web:
3) Get in touch with your Hybrid Mind.
“In discussing the question [of emancipation], he used to liken the case to that of the boy who, when asked how many legs his calf would have if he called its tail a leg, replied, ” Five,” to which the prompt response was made that calling the tail a leg would not make it a leg.” ~ (Congressman George Julian reminiscing about Abraham Lincoln’s statement during his administration)
Learn to trust your sensory experiences as real knowledge, separate from your labels of experience. Combine 4-legged thinking (nonverbal/sensory) plus 5-legged thinking (language/logic) to make 9-legged thinking in order to maximize your human experience.
Know that when you spend time in nature, you are not running away. A favorite phrase from Dr. Michael Cohen in his book “Reconnecting With Nature”:
“It is more than just getting away from our problems. It is going to a place that people did not invent, a place where intelligence does not generate, support or fuel our problems and has shown to diminish them.”
4) Host your own 30-minute outdoor daily challenge with yourself or a few acquaintances for 30 days, and see how you feel!
We Are Wildness 30-Day Challenge is one example that I participated in with others from around the world who shared the fruits of our challenge in photos, day to day inspiration, and tales of mind-body transformation. This will be repeated in Spring 2014.
5) Educate yourself about foraging (I want to – emphasis on education before ingestion). To help, check out this great resource: Edible Wild Food Newsletter
Nourish yourself with the best of what is available in stores for your body from the Earth. Consider GMO research and how Hawaii is ground zero for much change: Hawaii to label all GMO foods. I do not yet consume 100% organic and non-GMO foods, but I am broadening my view of food as preventive medicine and agree an extra dollar at the store outweighs the cost of an illness. As a paycheck to paychecker responsible for a child, I cannot afford to take a day off work! Even when I relied on my local food bank, I chose canned organics as often as possible. The physical rewards of nature’s intelligence are available to any of us, any time no matter our income level or location.