It is easy to forget that we are animals. Granted, we are complicated animals with calendars, iPhones, and twitter accounts, but still we are animals. These modern complications make much of our lives convenient, but comes at the cost of creating stress and greater detachment from our animal roots. Luckily, science has shown that returning to our roots by mindfully going back into nature can have benefits such as lower blood pressure, stress, and inflammation
We can connect better with nature through a traditional practice called, “forest bathing.” Forest bathing has been practiced in Japan for centuries, where it is called “shinrin yoku.” Forest bathing is more than simply taking a hike or a walk outside. It is a practice in which we take the time to connect with our deeper animal selves, to be back in our native habitat, to let our noses breathe fresh air, allow our eyes to adjust to natural greenery, and feel our feet on uneven, dusty trails. In other words, we are bathing and taking in all that nature has to offer, and our body is rewarded by better health and perspective.
At the C4 Ranch, we have designed our programs and experiences to let SEALs and their families de-stress through nature. In our meditation walking loop, families and visitors walk laps through a meadow and each lap focuses on a different sense. We have set up benches, tables, and hay bales overlooking grand vistas; even our workshop has a view of the Mojave Desert so kids can paint and absorb the natural breeze.
Thankfully, you also don’t have do go to the C4 Ranch to do some forest bathing. You can do it anywhere you find a slice of nature. We get similar benefits by taking even one minute to gaze up at a tree branch, or walk barefoot in grass or sand. While we do this, we do not need to do anything special with our minds or worry about our own thoughts, we just need to focus on being there and taking a few deep breaths. As animals, our body knows how to do the rest.
Written By: Glenn R. Fox, PhD