Sometimes words just aren’t enough to express the soul-deep multitude of feelings that have engulfed us as a community and a nation recently. My wish for humanity? May every person be seen, heard, valued, cared for, fulfilled, well-nourished, loved in safe and secure relationships, in a circle of community, family, and friends, so they can thrive and be safe and healthy.
Big feelings need big spaces. I took all the sadness, overwhelm, pain, despair, fear, anger, care, and hope into the woods for days, getting up early to start the day with a 45 minute walk. Some days there was rain, fog or sun (or all three at the same time!). It was an immersion of the senses when I paid attention. I learned the “chirp” sound of cardinals calling to each other, saw families of rabbits eating clover for breakfast, and met the award- winner for loudest birdsong coming from a tiny Carolina wren. The wisdom of the trees was all around…grandfather and grandmother trees, branches rising into the multicolored morning sky. One day in DuPont State Forest, I sat in front of High Falls and imagined all my turbulent feelings being poured inside the pounding water, and watched as that beautiful cascade pounded and resolved into eddies of smooth water downstream. And I felt better. We’re in a huge time of transition, of hopefully, finally transforming longtime injustices and hurts, during a time of ongoing pandemic and economic uncertainty. Maybe being in Nature reminds us about something deep in ourselves…that healing is possible, that growth is possible, that things grow, fall down, cascade, change, move…and transform into something else. We’re in widespread “dis-ease” right now… literally not being at ease…but isn’t lack of ease an important part of big transformations?
In Japan, there is a practice called “shinrin-yoku” or “forest bathing”. It is not considered exercise or hiking…it is simply being in nature and paying attention to all your senses- the sights, smells, sounds of being outside. The health benefits of this are surprising. Natural killer cell activity, our immune system defense cells against bacteria and viruses, goes up. Anti-cancer proteins get activated. Blood pressure goes down, as do scores for depression, fatigue, anxiety and confusion. Stress related hormones like adrenalin and dopamine decrease. In one study, some of the cellular effects lasted up to seven days after being outside! Some benefits have been attributed to breathing in the smells of the forest, plants and trees, which come from phytoncides- antimicrobial organic compounds from plants. No matter where you live, see if you can find a bit of the outdoors to experience your own “shinrin-yoku” this week- perhaps while doing your tae kwon do practice, taking a bike ride, walking around the block, enjoying a park, or just resting in the shade of a tree.
Dr. Danna Park specializes in Integrative Medicine, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. She received her M.D. degree from Tufts University, completed a combined residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics and is a graduate of the Residential Fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. She is Board-certified in all three specialties. Dr. Park provides integrative consultations for adults and children with a variety of medical conditions and also works with people who want to take an active approach in maintaining their wellness. Dr. Park has specialized training in mind-body medicine, vitamins and supplements, nutritional approaches for brain-based disorders and integrative cancer care. For more information, call 828-333-3339 or go to www.mountainintegrative.com .