A Walk in the Woods – Looking for Shinrin-yoku.

“A tree with strong roots laughs at storms” – Malay Proverb

We all know that getting out and walking is good for our mental health, but for that bit extra help in feeling better take a walk in the woods.

Walking among trees is really good for our wellbeing.  You must have felt it when you’ve been for a walk in woodland; the feelings of relaxation and grounding, of feeling more peaceful?  The Japanese call this feeling shinrin-yoku, or forest breathing.

I will be exploring more about why walking amongst trees is so good for us, but for now I want to share a couple of my experiences with you, and yes….. this is when it gets a bit woo woo, but bear with me.

“Be like a tree. Stay grounded. Connect with your roots. Turn over a new leaf. Bend before you break. Enjoy your unique natural beauty. Keep growing” – Joanne Raptis

Since meeting Kim, my mind has been opened to see the world in a different way to how I used to, and it has been an exciting learning experience for me.  My struggles with anxiety and depression have given me the perfect opportunity to explore outside the limited box of beliefs most of us live in.  My body has literally forced me to examine my life and to open my mind to other possibilities in order to heal.

I am going to tell you a story about an experience I had a year or so ago.

Every day I would go walking in Chiswick House Gardens; there is a wooded part of the gardens and in one area there is a circle of eight, old trees.  I always felt calmer when walking through those woods and I used the time to practise being mindful by listening to the bird songs, the rustle of the leaves and feeling the ground beneath my feet.

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One morning I was approaching the circle of trees and noticed that someone had put a notice on the tree closest to my path.  At first I thought it was a notice from the wardens, but as I approached I saw it was a flyer about banning smart meters!

As you know, I have a few anger issues at the moment and this made me really mad…  It wasn’t what the notice said that upset me it was where it had been put; it felt a really inappropriate place.  I can’t really explain it, but it seemed to disrupt the whole peace and calm of the place and it completely derailed me.

I took the notice down and apologised to the tree (as you do!); I felt really bad that someone had pinned this useless bit of paper to something as amazing as this tree.  The tree told me it was fine (I told you it would get a bit woo woo), it didn’t come alive like in Lord of the Rings, I just felt it……

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I called it a wise old tree, and it replied that he was not wise, he had just been around longer than I had.

Each time I walked past the tree, I would give it a hug.  I would actually feel calmer and I would feel a deep relaxation in my heart.  Having my chest against the tree would really help calm me especially on days when I felt really anxious.  I didn’t always need to hug the tree; sometimes I would just walk past, say hi, and go on my way…… just seeing it made me feel good.

I know this will all sound very weird and some of you may think that I’ve completely lost the plot, but a similar thing happened to me today.

This week has been a real struggle with depression, I hit rock bottom and had no interest in doing anything other than staying on the sofa and watching movies.

I take Leo for a walk every morning; the area where we usually go has lots of different paths, which is great because depending on how I feel and how the weather is, I can vary the route and distance each day.  Recently something has drawn me to take a path that I have only followed once before, and that was when I was first exploring the area.  The path leads around a field which has a narrow stretch of woodland along one side, which you can walk through.  This was the path I took this morning.

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I think I must have experienced shinrin-yoku because I felt a lot calmer, I felt safe and happy in the woods.  I was drawn to one particular tree and gave it a quick hug, I immediately felt my chest and shoulders release and I felt the depression start to lift.  I started to worry that I would not recognise the tree again so I started looking for points of reference, and even took a picture of it.  At this point I felt as though all of the trees were telling me not to worry because they were all there to help and support me; I felt overwhelmed with emotion and left with a feeling that things will be ok.

“Let’s take our hearts for a walk in the woods and listen to the magic whispers of old trees” – Unknown

Before you ask; no, I have not been drinking, and I am only taking my prescribed medication……

I want to find out more about forest bathing and the science behind why walking in the woods is so good for us.  I am not sure I will find much on communicating with trees, but if I do I’ll let you know.

I am not really concerned if people think this is a load of old rubbish, all I will say is that the depression pretty much paralysed me since Friday, and today is the first day in a while that the dark cloud has lifted and I’ve been able to do things.

Keep an open mind, enjoy nature, and don’t be afraid to say hi to a tree when you next see one…..

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

 

 

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