|Here I am in a patch of beautiful forest ferns, surrounded by towering oaks, birches, maples, & pines.|
The writer’s mind can be a wondrous thing – methodical and whiz-bang creative, able to leap from tall idea into exciting research and a day of writing that may leave one exhausted but also high. Oh, and let us not forget the joy of analyzing a manuscript, both one’s own or someone else’s. And then there’s brainstorming about stories, plots, characters – one of my all-time fave things to do.
I will always love brainstorming until my very last breath.
|A mysterious granite pedestal|
But as you may recall, I had a head injury on the Fourth of July that resulted in a concussion. My worst moment after that was when I couldn’t remember even how to print the letters of the alphabet.
Now that six weeks have passed, I’m much better but my brain still tires quickly. You never knew that could happen, right? The doctor warned me to get rid of stress (good luck with that) and not to think – yes, don’t think.
Alas, she’s right – if I push my little gray cells too long, I get a roaring headache.
But at the same time, I’m back to writing and seeing friends. I’m just one of 3 million Americans who suffer concussions every year – and I’m healing a lot faster than expected. I’m writing this blog. I’ve done the shopping. I’m working on my new book. And I sleep well almost every night.
To what do I attribute my fast improvement? In a phrase, “forest bathing,” or shinrin yoku in Japanese, which basically means going into the woods or another green space and appreciating one’s time there.
It’s making a huge difference in my recovery. I’ll explain shortly.
|Porcupine high in beech tree|
Yes, I write fiction, but the healing benefits of forest bathing have good science behind it.
Controlled studies of people who spent regular amounts of time in forests showed lowered blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol, as well as reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol, risk of type II diabetes, risk of coronary heart disease, and incidence of death from heart disease and all-cause mortality.
Want to fight about it? Another study found significantly decreased levels of hostility and depression, too.
I’m truly lucky. We live in a large forest of wildlife, plants, bushes, and trees. The photos on this page are some of my favorites from it. My research shows that the phytochemicals trees emit and that we breathe are known to be healing, but I don’t ponder any of the benefits when I’m inside the magical kingdom of the woods.
|Wild blackberries – delicious!|
The rich aromas of earth, cedars, and blooming wild flowers transport me. Tall ferns swish against my legs as I walk. As sunlight slants down through the canopy of leaves, I pause to see what new is being illuminated. My jaw unlocks. My breathing responds not to stress, but to normal physical exertion. I smile and smile.
Want to live longer and happier? Bathing in the forest could improve your health, too.
And the good news is that if one spends one’s working day inside an office without even a window, one can also benefit from pseudo forest bathing. Put a photo on your desk or a calendar on your wall that shows an outdoor scene – mountains, a lake, the ocean, flowers, and especially trees, trees, trees. Gaze at it whenever you change tasks. Drink in the beauty.
Every chance you get, go for a walk on a sidewalk where trees are growing alongside it. Better yet, stop at a park, sit on a bench, close your eyes, and breathe. Then open your eyes and feast on the glorious sight of Mother Nature around you.
Of course, forest bathing isn’t all I’m doing to heal. Being in a good marriage and having good friends matter. Eating well, sleeping, napping, moderate exercise, an old cat who loves to cuddle, and the occasional aspirin also make a difference. And whenever I can, I go into the forest.
SO glad you’re back, Gayle!
I grew up with a wooded area behind my home and that’s where I spent all my spare time. The retirement home of my dreams is surrounded by forest (so far I have the lot but not the house).
I advise you to avoid the porcupine, though.
So glad you are on the mend. Forest bathing sounds like a great restorative. And love the idea of having nature pictures around!
LOL, that darn porcupine. He was devouring the young branches and didn't look a bit guilty when we spotted him and took his photo. You were lucky to have such a wonderful place to grow. I'm from Iowa and although we didn't have a forest nearby, we sure did have a lot of greenery and veggie gardens and such. I so appreciate that, too!
So happy you are getting better. Wow, scary. Love the forest bathing concept. I shall not forget that. Be well, my friend.
I have a friend who recently told me about this. She spends her morning walking in the woods of a nearby lake. Sadly, I heard of this after I moved. This lake/woods used to be a half mile from my home.
Enjoy, and hope you continue to heal!
I had no idea your concussion was that serious! It's great to hear you are doing so much better. Our new home sits on 2-1/2 wooded acres with a brook running through the back…so serene, and so unlike anywhere I've lived before. I have situated my writing desk facing a window that looks out on this splendor. Even still, I make an effort to get into Acadia several times a week, particularly at the edge of the ocean, which is my true sensory delight. Nature is, indeed, the cure for what ails us!
We are all SO relieved you are recovering from that awful concussion situation! We don't have a forest nearby, but I do find that being able to gaze at water of any kind (bay, pool, whatever) is extremely soothing and also helps "the little grey cells" in terms of creativity. As for your creativity, also happy to hear you are working on a new novel — keep us posted on its progress….because whenever it's published, I can't wait to read it!!! … Karna Bodman
It's amazing what one learns as one goes along, isn't it, Liv! So glad I discovered it. Happy Trees to You! 🙂
Thanks, Susan. Those California trees will thank you!
That's wonderful about your friend, Robin. But you have a new puppy. That's a lot of Mother Nature love right there!
Wow, LC! A brook! We have seasonal streams but of course they're dry now. I love how you've placed your desk. Mine looks out like that, too. We're lucky writers!
I love to gaze at water, too, Karna. It's so mesmerizing and calming and healing. Thank you for all of your support and kind wishes!
I grew up in the mountains, on a hill, surrounded by forest, and have lived among the trees for most of my life. Now I live in the city. It's still an adjustment! My office now looks at the mountains towering in the distance, and out over an open space area. Fortunately we live very near the Highline Canal Trail, one of Denver's incredible walking paths that meanders from north to south across Denver. The Mile High City boasts over 5,000 acres of traditional parks and parkways including natural acres and river trails. Still, once my husband retires and we figure out where we want to go, we're headed back into the trees somewhere. So glad you're getting better!!
I love how you describe it all, Chris. So much feeling. I always took for granted our relationship to nature, and yet I was always drawn to it. You are lucky in Denver to have so many opportunities to bathe in it!
I agree: trees, trees, trees!
So glad you're better, Gayle! I knew you weren't able to make ThrillerFest because of a fall, but I had no idea you had a bad concussion. How scary. Thank you for the wonderful article. Love the term "forest bathing"!
Oh, Gale, I didn't know that you had a head injury. As I couldn't come to ThrillerFest this year, and that is were we usually meet, I had no idea. I read and enjoy your tweets almost daily.
So sorry, and so happy you're recovering fast! Enjoy your wonderful forest and get completely well very soon!