Because mental health care is not an option or a luxury.
Due to the recent coronavirus outbreak, I am currently offering both tele-mental health and in-office sessions. Meeting online is safe and secure with a HIPAA compliant Zoom platform.
Before your appointment, please download the required tele-mental health paperwork (even if you are an existing client and have filled out the initial paperwork). I will link the paperwork below once it is ready. IMPORTANT – DO NOT email the paperwork back to me as it will contain private and sensitive information. Together we will determine the most appropriate way to get the paperwork back to me.
I’ll send you an invite to my online office via Zoom prior to your session. All you need to do is get online, open your email and click on the link.
I’ve loved hiking in the woods ever since my Aunt Ree took me on my first walk in the woods as a small child. It felt like I entered a brand new world – a magical world of trees, moss and animals. A world apart from my normal everyday life, which was far from magical and far from peaceful. I still remember having my peanut butter and jelly sandwich with her on a stop along the trail. It was the most peace I had ever felt. Still today, I find solace in the woods, and hike as often as possible.
Tomorrow I am taking a class in Shinrin-Yoku – or “forest bathing”. I already KNOW how great I feel after being in nature, hiking, kayaking, walking – but I’m excited to learn more about the health benefits of forest bathing from a scientific standpoint. Below is a great article written by Karin Evans and published in the Greater Good Magazine.
I’ve also added a quick 1 minute video (scroll down to the bottom) for those who don’t have the time to read the article; i.e. those of you that would probably benefit from a great forest bath 😉
Why Forest Bathing Is Good for Your Health
From the Greater Good Magazine – Science Based Insights for a Meaningful Life
“Nature deficit disorder” is a modern affliction. With more people living in cities, working in high-rise office buildings, and becoming addicted to their innumerable electronic devices, many of us are indeed experiencing a nature deficit. This is true for children and adults alike.
In his new book, Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, Japanese medical doctor and researcher Qing Li presents some sobering statistics: By 2050, according to the United Nations Population Division, three quarters of the world’s people will live in cities. Even now, the average American spends 93 percent of the time indoors, and some ten hours a day on social media—more than they spend asleep.
The Kumano Kodo trail in Japan
In Japan, there’s enough awareness about this deficit that Li heads up an organization called The Japanese Society of Forest Medicine, which promotes research on the therapeutic effects of forests on human health and educates people on the practice of forest bathing. His book—a companion to the center he runs—explores research on these benefits, while offering a number of techniques we can use to enhance them.
“Some people study forests. Some people study medicine. I study forest medicine to find out all the ways in which walking in the forest can improve our well-being,” writes Li.
The history of forest bathing
Japan is a country that is both urbanized and heavily forested. Trees cover two-thirds of the island’s landmass, and yet a majority of Japan’s people live in crowded city conditions. Li himself lives in Tokyo, a city he describes as “the most crowded city in the world.”
Perhaps that’s why the art of “forest bathing”—shinrin-yoku—began there. Forest bathing involves slowly walking through a forest, taking in the atmosphere through all your senses, and enjoying the benefits that come from such an excursion.
In 1982, Japan launched a national program to encourage forest bathing, and in 2004, a formal study of the link between forests and human health began in Iiyama, Japan—a place particularly known for its lush, green forests. Now, each year upwards of 2.5 million people walk those forest trails as a way to ease stress and enhance health.
Li’s interest in forest research began when he was a stressed-out medical student. He went away for a week of forest camping, and found it restored his physical and emotional health. That inspired him to begin researching the benefits of forests on human health and well-being. In 2004, he helped found the Forest Therapy Study Group, aimed at finding out why being among trees makes us feel so much better.
After years of careful study, Li has found that spending time in a forest can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and anger; strengthen the immune system; improve cardiovascular and metabolic health; and boost overall well-being.
“Wherever there are trees, we are healthier and happier,” writes Li. And, he adds, it isn’t about exercising—like hiking or jogging—it’s simply about being in nature.
Why would this be? It’s long been recognized that humans have a biological need to connect with nature. Some 20 years ago, American biologist E. O. Wilson noted that humans are “hardwired” to connect with the natural world, and that being in nature had a profoundly positive effect on human health.
Li’s research seems to corroborate this. For example, one of his studies looked at whether forest bathing could improve sleep patterns among middle-aged Tokyo office workers who tended to suffer sleep deficiency due to high levels of stress. During the study, participants walked the same amount of time in a forest that they usually did in a non-forest setting on a normal working day. After a walk in the forest, participants were significantly less anxious, slept better, and slept longer. In addition, researchers found that afternoon walks were even more beneficial than morning walks.
“You sleep better when you spend time in a forest, even when you don’t increase the amount of physical activity you do,” reported Li.
To further assess the effects of time spent in a forest, Li measured people’s moods before and after walking in the woods or in an urban environment. While other studies have shown that walking anywhere outdoors reduces depression, anxiety, and anger, Li found that only the experience of walking in a forest improved people’s vigor and reduced fatigue.
The health secrets of trees seem to lie in two things—the higher concentration of oxygen that exists in a forest, as compared to an urban setting, and the presence of plant chemicals called phytoncides—natural oils that are part of a plant’s defense system against bacteria, insects, and fungi. Exposure to these substances, says Li, can have measurable health benefits for humans. Physiological stress is reduced, for example, and both blood pressure and heart rate are lowered. Evergreens—pine, cedar, spruce, and conifers—are the largest producers of phytoncides, so walking in an evergreen forest seems to have the greatest health benefits.
How to do forest bathing
So, is there a specific art to forest bathing? Or is it just as easy as a walk in the woods?
Connecting with nature is simple, writes Li. “All we have to do is accept the invitation. Mother Nature does the rest.” Here are some of his suggested steps.
Find a spot. Depending where you are, find a good source of nature. One doesn’t need to journey deep into a forest for these benefits. Just look for any green area. It could be an urban park, a nature preserve, or a trail through suburban woods. Forests with conifers are thought to be particularly beneficial.
“Let your body be your guide. Listen to where it wants to take you,” Li says. Some people will respond to sunny glades, others to shadier places. Listen to your own wisdom. For people who don’t have access to a forest, or can’t get outside for some reason, infusing essential tree oils in your home can provide benefits, too.
Engage all your senses. “Let nature enter through your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands, and feet,” says Li. Actively listen, smell, touch, and look. “Drink in the flavor of the forest and release your sense of joy and calm.”
Don’t hurry. Slow walking is recommended for beginners. And it’s good to spend as much time as possible. You’ll notice positive effects after twenty minutes, says Li, but a longer visit, ideally four hours, is better.
Try different activities. Try doing yoga in the woods, or Tai chi, or meditation. Take a picnic. Write a poem. Study plants. You can venture alone, or with a companion. In Japan, forest walking therapists are even available.
Appreciate the silence. One of the downsides of urban living is the constant noise. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a wooded area that’s free from human-produced sound. Silence is restorative, and a forest can have its own healing sound—rustling leaves, a trickle of water, birdsong. Spend a few quiet moments with a favorite tree. If nothing else, when we connect with nature we are reminded that we are part of a larger whole. And that, Li notes, can lead us to be less selfish and to think more of others.
Li’s book, which includes illustrations and a map of “40 Beautiful Forests Across the World,” is an invitation and an inspiration to take a walk in the woods, wherever you are.
VIDEO: What is Japanese Forest Bathing and How Can It Improve Your Health?
Did you know that one in five people these days are affected by mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression? These days many of us are also struggling with stress and overwhelm as the pace and demands of life increase.
I believe now more than ever we all need to commit to making our mental health a priority.
In honour of World Mental Health Day, here are seven proven tips that will improve your mental health and boost your well being.
1. EXERCISE REGULARLY
It’s well known that exercise is important for keeping our bodies healthy, but did you know that exercise is also vital for good mental health? Research shows that people who exercise regularly have better mental health, reduced risk of developing mental illness and greater emotional well being too.
HOW EXERCISE BOOSTS YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
Exercise increases your energy levels both mentally and physically.
Exercise helps you sleep better, and good sleep helps regulate your emotions.
Exercise can improve confidence and self-esteem as you achieve a healthy goal and take care of yourself.
Exercise changes hormones and chemicals in the brain in mood boosting ways including an ‘endorphin rush’ that increases feelings of calm and happiness as well as improving focus and memory.
Physical activity can be an outlet for irritation, frustration and bad moods.
Exercise is a powerful way to alleviate the symptoms of mental illness. For example research suggests exercise can be as effective as medication or speaking to a psychologist for overcoming mild depression.
THINK ABOUT STARTING SMALL
Keeping physically active doesn’t have to mean working out at the gym, it can be simply going for a walk in the park. Experts advise that at least 20 to 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week is ideal. If you’re not currently exercising why not start small with a goal that feels immediately achievable – like just 5 to 10 minutes a day. Start small and you can build up from there. This is often the best way to form new habits.
2. PRACTICE MINDFULNESS
Mindfulness (a form of meditative awareness) involves training our attention and learning to have a more wise and skillful relationship with our own minds. Mindfulness teaches us to unhook from unhelpful and unproductive thought patterns and behaviours. It involves learning to steady our awareness in the present moment rather than getting lost in our heads worrying, ruminating about problems or locked into self-criticism or negative judgements.
RESEARCH SHOWS THAT MINDFULNESS…
Reduces stress, depression and anxiety
Increases stress resilience
Brings feelings of peace and inner calm
Improves overall sense of well being and life satisfaction
3. EAT A HEALTHY DIET
What we eat affects how we feel. If you’ve ever watched how quickly sugar can have an effect on the mood of small children (and adults too) or if you’ve ever felt dull and tired after a heavy lunch of carbs you’ll have seen and felt the effects that foods we choose to eat can have.
But it’s not just sugar and heavy carbs. All kinds of foods can also have short-term as well as long-lasting effects on your mental health. Your body needs a mix of nutrients and minerals to function well, so making sure you’re eating a good diet is truly vital for mental health.
A HEALTHY DIET INCLUDES
A variety of fresh vegetables and fruits
Nuts and seeds
A good source of protein, from either fish meats (from good sources) or plant-based
Regular water consumption 6- 8 glasses per day
Potentially dairy, grains and complex carbohydrates like beans, lentils, pumpkin etc
TRY TO LIMIT
How much caffeine you drink
How much sugar is in your diet
Taking in a lot of intoxicants
Things you are intolerant or allergic to
4. DRINK IN MODERATION
Many people who overindulge in drinking alcohol (or other substances) commonly do it to change their mood. Although it may numb or overcome a difficult feeling for a while, the effects are short-lived. Alcohol doesn’t deal with the causes of difficult feelings or solve our problems. It makes them worse. There are much healthier ways of dealing with difficult feelings including the other ones listed in this post.
Occasional drinking in moderation is quite healthy and enjoyable for most people. As a useful guide to drinking in moderation, keep in mind that the daily alcohol limit recommended by alcohol.gov.au is no more than two standard drinks per day.
5. PRACTICE SELF-COMPASSION
Do you have a harsh inner critic? It’s common to beat ourselves up and berate ourselves but research shows this habit of self-criticism comes at a price: It makes us lose confidence, feel unhappy with our lives and even leads to depression and anxiety.
Self-compassion is a way of relating to ourselves more kindly and studies show it makes us happier and gives us better overall emotional well being (as well as a whole host of other benefits too).
In a report published by three German psychologists, which examined 79 studies on the link between self-compassion and well-being, they reached this conclusion: People who are kinder to themselves tend to be happier.
Kristin Neff, who has been a pioneer in the study of self-compassion says, “With self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend.”
We humans are social animals. We crave to feel connected and supported and to feel valued by others. Studies have shown that social connection is a vital key to good mental health.
Good social connection has even been linked to having a longer life. In one study on an elderly population people with strong social and community ties were two to three times less likely to die during the nine-year study.
Sometimes social connection can be a heart-to-heart talk over coffee but sometimes it can be a short phone call, or an email or message. Make sure to make time to connect with the loved ones in your life on a regular basis.
If you feel your current social life isn’t giving you enough connection, you can take steps to form new ones such as
Enroll in a class or hobby that interests you. You’ll be able to connect with others who share a common interest as well as getting out there and trying something new.
Join a book club, hiking club or other group such a knitting, meditation groups, fitness groups, community gardens or mothers groups.
Try volunteer work. Not only will you bond with other volunteers and recipients but helping others gives you that warm fuzzy feeling too.
Reach out and connect to people. Ask people out for coffees, dinners or to events like movies or bands. Try to get out and meet new people.
7. DO SOMETHING YOU LOVE
What activities do you love doing just for the fun of it? You know the ones you really lose yourself in? Take some time each day to do things you love and just enjoy yourself.
It could be engaging in a hobby like music, art, gardening or going hiking or riding and bike. It could be just having a cup of tea in the sun. Take some each week (or even each day) to just enjoy life and let go of all your cares and worries for a while. Research also shows that it improves confidence and self esteem as well as improving our overall sense of well being.
“Human beings are experts at showing up for the demands of the world. We keep driving forward—for our boss, our parents, our partners, or even ourselves—trying to live up to what’s expected of us, as defined by those around us.
Until suddenly, one day, we break.
Experiencing a breakdown can be inconvenient, uncomfortable, and even frightening, but it comes with an important message. In this video from School of Life, philosopher Alain de Botton explains how breakdowns provide you with an opportunity to learn what you really need from life.” Continue reading the article HERE
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Food cravings, telling off grumpy colleagues: some habits are hard to avoid even on our best days. We’ve rounded up these mindful books on the science and practice behind habit-formation.
How to Stop Your Stories From Running Your Life
Research suggest we not only have the capacity to pay attention to and stop the chatter of our stories, but we can also reduce our stress and reinvent our relationships by responding to them differently.
In case you missed it: Stand-out pieces from the past year you might want to know about.
The Future of Education: Mindful Classrooms
Creating a safe place for our kids to learn might begin with creating some space for them to breathe. Here’s an in-depth look at the research and best practices for bringing mindfulness into schools.
Meditators Under the Microscope
The benefits of meditation have been hard to show in concrete terms. Today, however, as the scientific world delves into the study of mindfulness, the capacity of the brain to transform under its influence inspires nothing short of wonder.