“And into the forest I go to lose my mind and find my soul.”
~ John Muir
Are you looking for the next great wellness trend? Something that makes you healthy and happy, puts your mind at ease, and brings you back in touch with your authentic self. The answer might be as simple as taking a walk in the woods- one of the best things you can do for your mind, body and soul.
In Japan, they have taken this notion to a whole other level, creating a practice called shinrin-yoku, which translates literally to “forest bathing” or “absorbing the forest atmosphere.” While no actual bathing takes place, the idea is to open your senses to the natural environment. Studies have shown that, by simply being present with their experience, taking in all the sights and sounds and smells of the forest, people have been able to lower their blood pressure, heart rate and stress levels. In addition, those who spent at least 20 minutes immersed in a natural setting regularly reported increased levels of happiness and well-being.
To be clear, when John Muir talks of going to the forest to lose his mind, he doesn’t mean succumbing to madness so much as quieting down the chatter in his head. Walking in the woods calms the inner voice, giving the thinking mind a chance to rest. When you allow the stillness that you discover in nature to permeate your inner world, you experience inner peace. Ultimately, by dropping the thinking mind, you come to your senses- allowing your soul to resonate with the tranquil beauty of the natural world. So, if you are looking for a quick and easy way to boost your well-being, look no further- go take a walk in the woods!
"Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos- the trees, the clouds, everything." - Thich Nhat Hanh
Are you a well being? Before you answer that, let's take a moment to figure out exactly what well-being is.
Unlike health, which is defined by the absence of disease, well-being consists of multiple factors. Physical well-being, for example, is about how comfortable you feel in your body. Not just how relaxed your muscles feel, but how healthy your organs are. This includes making the right dietary choices, detoxifying the body and establishing an exercise routine. Mental well-being is the ability to calm the mind, allowing the inner voice to quiet down and be at peace. Emotional well-being concerns your ability to manage stress and to bounce back from adversity. Finally, social well-being relies on your ability to communicate effectively and form meaningful bonds with others.
There are other factors involved in your well-being, such as financial well-being and work-related well-being. Suffice to say that well-being is a dynamic state of being alive in which you are not just surviving, you are thriving. The good news is that physical, mental, emotional and social health are all connected. A small improvement in just one area can have a domino effect on the rest. If you get a massage, for example, it relaxes your body, which allows you to release emotional stress and put your mind at ease. Also, since you are now feeling more comfortable in your body, you are more likely to be social and bond with others. So, if you are interested in becoming a well being, don't be overwhelmed by all the steps that are involved. Just start somewhere- a small improvement in one area of your life could be all you need to get started on the road to thriving wellness.
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
This quote by Albert Einstein sounds very true and deep at first, but it actually leaves the reader with more questions than answers. What is it, exactly, that we will understand if we look deep into nature? Does he mean how rocks can teach us about the power of silence or how a tree shows us how to be grounded and flexible? The way the sound of the ocean teaches us to breathe or how the wind teaches us to let go of our attachments? Maybe he meant the way a river teaches us to take the path of least resistance, how an eagle teaches us to take a higher perspective, or how a deer teaches us to be present and aware?
Maybe Einstein is referring to the process of nature- the ongoing cycle of life, death and rebirth. The way that all of life is an interconnected web that strives to maintain balance and harmony. Or maybe he was alluding to a higher, philosophical truth? Like how, if you look deeply enough into nature, you will eventually recognize yourself looking back. It’s probably better that he leaves it open ended since everyone’s experience with nature is going to be different. He is telling us how we can access a higher understanding about life, not what the higher understanding is. What is the truth about life? It’s up to you to look deeply into nature and find out for yourself.
"Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes."
If you could dream any dream you wanted, what would it be? Imagine if there was a Dream App on your phone which allowed you to choose the dreams you were going to have that night. Maybe there would be a drop-down menu of dreams to choose from such as: Flying over the Grand Canyon, Snowboarding on the Moon, Shopping in your underwear, etc. Every dream would be different, but they would all have a certain element of adventure and excitement to them. Afterall, nobody is going to choose to have a boring dream like: Sit in rush hour traffic or Wait in line at the DMV.
That’s because the best dreams are the ones that are unpredictable. Similar to choosing a movie to watch, we are all looking for an experience that elicits an emotional response- one that pulls us in and keeps us on the edge of our seat. Imagine a movie about a woman who is happy in life. Throughout the movie, nothing ever goes wrong, and no conflicts ever need to be resolved. In the end, she is still happy, just like before. What a boring movie that would be! Things just aren’t that interesting without the elements of conflict, drama, and unpredictability. So, keep this in mind the next time you face adversity, or you find yourself in a situation where you have to solve a problem or resolve a conflict. Remember to appreciate the unpredictable nature of existence. Life doesn’t always go according to plan, but that’s also what makes it so interesting.
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About The Author
Nick Hughes is a massage therapist, yoga instructor and co-owner of Well Being. Influenced by the ideas of Alan Watts, Eckhart Tolle, Ram Dass, and Deepak Chopra, Nick presents his unique take on human existence with the goal of helping others live a happier life.