Stress reduction might be one of our biggest desires. How fantastic that walking, which is so easily accessible, can dramatically reduce stress and tension in our lives. Let’s walk through a few scientific and innate reasons why we should do regular walking in nature to reduce daily stress.
Let go of the desire of thinking of nothing and pay attention to what happening right now.
“What are you thinking?”
I was asked, in a Macrame workshop.
I looked at a bit confused as I was focused on getting the thread through the hole. So I started to think: what was I thinking?
Let's take score of our personal wellbeing to ask the gift we truly desire
With so little time left before Christmas, the gifts have been bought and plans have been made. Though this gift doesn’t need to be bought. This gift is for yourself, something that you truly desire. Let's take score of the evolvement of your personal wellbeing in 2018 because if you take time to reflect, you'll treat yourself with the most precious gift: a gift you truly desire.
So get some paper and a pen, and write down the first things that come to mind.
The sounds of twigs snapping and leaves whispering, the aroma of resin and blossoms, and now and again the comfort of sunlight on your face.
Yes, the deliciousness and beauty of walk in the forest.
For me personally, going to the forest is like visiting an old friend. When I need to recharge, get out of the house, or encounter some stillness inside I would always go for a gentle stroll in the forest. I always leave the forest with a smile on my face.
In the exotic country Japan these healing powers of the forest have actually been the centre of attention for quite a while. Here a stroll in the forest has a beautiful name, you immediately want to jump into. It’s called forest bathing, Shinrin-yoku. Defined as the practice of taking a short leisurely visit to the forest for health benefits.
What impact will the forrest have on you?
A study from Japan on official forest bathing trails have shown that habitual forest walks significantly reduce stress hormones and blood pressure, regulate blood glucose levels, boosts your mood, and increases energy level. Yeah science proofs my experience is true ;)
Breathing in forrest air appears to actually improve immune system functions. In order to protect themselves from germs and insects, trees emit natural essential oils, Phytoncide, improving their natural immune system. Taking in these scents will be beneficial for your protection and if you visit the forest after illness or surgery it will accelerate your recovery process. Do you think we have been unconsciously aware of this protection as many recovery and elderly centres are actually next woodlands?
How does it work?
The connection with nature starts with becoming aware of our respiration, our internal communication channel. The breath facilitates to embody contact with the present moment by concentrating on one simple element. This distracts us from thoughts about tomorrow, yesterday or the far future and enables us to be in the present.
When we are able to be in the present and afterwards reconnect to our surrounding it awakens our curiosity. This opens our internal doorways to expansive awareness. Therefore the next phase is to submerge yourself in the scents and sounds of the woods in silence. Hear the birds and wind passing by, smell the blossom and trees, and let your eyes follow the path of light trough the leaves of the trees. You'll be surprised about what you'll discover in the forest.
We’re so used to rushing and running around. Though, while observing the forest with all your senses you move very slow. When we slow down the forest has the time to do it’s work and you have time to truly take in all beauty of your surroundings. You might miss that beautiful bird sing if you walk to fast.
Nature something so fragile but at the same time so powerful. We spend so much time indoors, running around, on paved streets, and far away from observing our natural surroundings that today it’s necessary to study the benefits of connecting to nature. I hope it gives a little encouragement to people to go out to nature. Take your time for an easy walk, and let nature do the work and you’ll leave the forest energised, happy, and healthier.
A long day full of impulses, information, social encounters, and appointments. You´re tired and would like to go to sleep. Though your mind is still spinning around. I would like to invite you to do a walking meditation instead of watching a movie, your favourite series, or submerge yourself in another social encounter.
In walking meditation the primary object of attention is the walking itself. In other words, you pay close attention to the physical act of walking, the way you take one step after another. No goal or destination, it's just to enjoy the act of walking itself.
The focus of the mind on this more obvious object helps to achieve three things:
First, you stay active. After a long day, you might fall asleep with a sitting meditation. Furthermore going to sleep with a head full of thoughts and stress may lead to poor sleep. If your sleep only stays in the first stages of the sleeping pattern your body does not get fully charged. Leading to negative effects on the memory, judgement and mood. Walking meditation gives you the opportunity to relax the mind and body while having an active and vivid experience. This results in a good night sleep.
Second, walking meditation helps to relieve discomfort in a pleasant way. After a workday you might feel some tension, and restlessness. Shifting your awareness through your body releases the tension accumulated in your body. The movement of the body parts while walking makes it pleasant and bearable to focus your attention on the painful areas. While your breath functions as a cool airstream that brings relaxation.
Third, the practice will awaken your curiosity to what is going on right now. The present is always with us, though we are always occupied with over 1000 thoughts every minute. With this simpel meditation practice you bring your thoughts back to two: breathing and walking. A perfect distraction for the mind of the usual train of thoughts. This will sharpen awareness and train the mind to concentrate. Though the best is that you'll be trained to be aware of the small things that surround you. For example enjoy that cup of tea before going to bed, truly listening to your partner during dinner. The act of paying attention to what's going on right now.
It is a real exploration of the body & mind. A simple practice rather than a search for spiritual enlightenment. Therefore everyone can do it, in any type of environment. You'll be surprised by the outcome: a beautiful smile, eyes full of life, ready to enjoy your evening, and sleep like a baby.
I hope to walk with you soon.
We often have to deal with work-related stress. Are we actually fully aware of the consequences of stress? According to the Harvard business school mayor health issues like hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and poor mental health, arise from workplace stress. At one point it's not possible anymore to deal with the increasing amount of stress.
Today employees and managers are overloaded with a remarkable amount of information and distraction. Emails, instant messaging, social media platforms, co-workers, phone-calls, constantly changing demands, updates, and deadlines. Where over 50% of worker's day is spent on “managing information”. This excess of information results in “a loss of ability to make decisions, process information, and prioritise tasks”.
This is exactly the reason why work-related stress is not solved by taking extra days off, going on a holiday or try get a good night sleep. Due to 100% connectivity it's even more challenging to create a healthy work-life balance as work is taken home and home is taken to work. Connectivity creates that our mind is constantly ON. Therefore our capability to truly relax has dramatically diminished. Our lives are online, connected, and updating information. When do we give our mind a true rest?
The mind is responsible for thoughts, feelings, happiness levels and work performance, it makes sense to take care of this most valuable resource.
Luckily there is an effective solution to reduce stress levels, enhance our predictive capabilities by allowing ourselves to truly rest.
For centuries meditation is known to work with both the body and mind. Current technological development enable us to actually follow the effects of meditation in the brain. With regular practice in meditation denser grey matter in the brain related to memory and emotional processing are changed and can drastically improve your attention span. A great added value in the age where our attention span is measured to be less than a goldfish. A meta-analysis of 47 trials with 3,515 participants found that people participating in mindfulness meditation programs experienced less anxiety, depression, and pain.
Furthermore practical evidence from corporations are reinforcing scientific evidence. For example results from Blackrock where Golbie Kamarei implemented meditation programs. Employee responses measure that 91% believes it positively adds to the culture, 88% would recommend it to a colleague 66% experiences less stress and better ability to manage stress, 63% are better able to manage themselves at work, and 60% experiences an increased focus, mental resilience and better decision making.
Therefore it's no surprise that big companies as Apple, Google, Yahoo, P&G, Nike, Salesforce, and HBO have implemented meditation programs in their corporate culture. Implementing mindfulness practices within your organisation is actually most effective way generate mutual benefit for business and staff. While wellbeing of staff is improved due to true relaxation of the mind and body, business performance is enhanced as it has more productive and better performing staff.
Meditation cultivates professionals that can actually deal with workplace stress in this increasingly demanding environment while being able to truly relax the body and mind. Furthermore the implementation of mindfulness practices encourages top performance as it enhances better decision making and productivity. Whether you are a small business or you work for a big corporate, now it is an ideal time to introduce this ancient practice to balancing work, life, and body by breathing and attention.
As every individual and corporation is unique the best evidence is to experience meditation and mindfulness practices yourself!
On my mind....