One mom’s story of how forest bathing, the act of simply being in nature, helped to reset her mood, perspective, and wellbeing.
I am hovering over the countertop in the low-light of our kitchen, tears forming at the corners of my eyes, shoving spoonfuls of my cold dinner into my mouth.
My almost-3-year-old son has been sick. He has had a fever, running nose and a cough. He has been extra clingy, which means that only I can lay down by him, only I can wipe his nose, only I can give him medicine, feed him, get him water, get him dressed…you get the picture. In short, daddy can’t do anything and mama needs to do it all. This is the sixth day of this.
I have just snuck out of his room (it is required that I sleep in there now) to change my clothes and eat my dinner. My husband comes over to check on me. Do I need anything? Is there anything he can do? The only thing that comes out of me is everything that’s been pent up for six days. How we haven’t left the house, how my son is equal parts needy and grouchy, how exhausted I am.
Finding a Reset
The next day my son is feeling good enough that I pack us up and leave the house and meet up with some friends for an outdoor playdate. He is not pleased. He complains the entire 40-minute drive. He begrudgingly lets me dress him when we arrive. I pull his sled through the fresh snow, the sunlit branches, and crisp air. When we arrive all he wants is for me to hold him. So, I do. I am standing with my friends in a circle, outside. For the majority of our time there this is what we do. Stand in the snow and breathe.
It is enough. It is enough to reset my mood, my perspective, and my day. The fresh air, the new snow, the forest, it makes everything OK again.
About Forest Bathing
The Japanese call it Shinrin-yoku, loosely translated as nature or forest bathing. According to Dr. Qing Li, who has been studying the science of forest bathing for years, it “…is not exercise, or hiking, or jogging. It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.”
There is a lot of research out there supporting the benefits of forest bathing. One such study shows “…that forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity than do city environments.”
Another study found “…forest environments are advantageous with respect to acute emotions, especially among those experiencing chronic stress.” This finding, in particular, spoke to me. I’d say motherhood as a whole is an experience in chronic stress.
Getting Outside is Enough
We all know the benefits of getting outside and how it makes us feel, it’s why we are part of the Hike it Baby movement and feel it’s so important to get our kids outside. I know sometimes I write off a playdate or a hike because I don’t think I have enough time. Forest bathing suggests that two hours is optimal, but that 20 minutes I spent standing in the sun with my friends and holding my son in the snow was all I needed to see things a bit differently. It was all I needed to go back into battle. So, don’t be intimidated by the timeframe or the thought that you need a massive hike to make a difference. Standing outside in your driveway may be enough to get your bearings again.
About Hike it Baby
Hike it Baby is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to getting families outdoors and on trails across the U.S. and internationally, supporting, educating and inspiring families through their more than 300 communities across North America. Since its grassroots inception in 2013 in Portland, Oregon, Hike it Baby is now a growing community of 270,000 families and 500 volunteer branch ambassadors hosting more than 1,600 hikes per month. More information, as well as daily hike schedules, can be found at HikeitBaby.com, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Photo courtesy of Krystal Weir.