Nature Makes Me a Better Parent-- Discovering the Art and Science of Forest Bathing

A Gorgeous Magnolia Flower From Today's Walk

It's 8 am and the kids have already been bickering for an hour.

Tears have been shed.

Threats have been made.

Sound familiar? Surely mine is not the only household in which its youngest citizens insist on turning the institution into a circus on a daily basis?

Some days it's hard to keep my cool.

Nature provides the perfect opportunity to escape and compose myself.

I bring the kids. It doesn't have to be far from home. In fact, the closer and easier the better some days. There's a sweet trail along the river not far from our house. When WWIII is about to break loose or I feel my last threat of patience about to snap, I load the kids and dogs into our mini van and head to a trail. With some comfortable shoes, sun screen, bug spray, and water bottles, we're ready for an adventure.

It's not always peaceful. The fighting continues sometimes. I've been known to tell the kids (frequently) that I want to hear the sounds of nature, not their voices.

Some exercise does all of us well. Soon the kids become occupied in their own conversations, interesting creatures along the trail, and the sights and sounds surrounding us. Today, we found a bench along the path and stopped for a few moments. I encouraged the kids to close their eyes and listen. Just listen. The forest came alive around us.

I just read a fascinating book this week called Forest Bathing by Dr. Qing Li. Forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, is the Japanese art and science of connecting with nature utilizing the five senses. Unlike hiking, it's not the destination that matters.  Instead, disconnecting from technology and daily stresses and enjoying the sights, sounds, tastes, textures, and scents of the forest is good for your health. 

There are Shinrin-yoku forest therapy camps in Japan where guides lead visitors along paths and assist them in their journey to oneness with the forest. While I'm not traveling to Japan with this crew any time soon, it's not hard to escape into a nature preserve and take in the wonder of it.  It's scientifically proven to lower your blood pressure. You'll be healthier and more relaxed.

Reconnecting with nature makes me a better parent.  Our nature walks are often exercise driven, but I do stop and smell the roses (pine trees?) too. I need to make more of an effort to just sit and be and let nature envelop my senses. It's hard. But, it's so good for you.

After some exertion and fresh air, the kids are much less quarrelsome. They are ready to focus and learn. My morning runs smoother. I'm less frazzled.

I think I'm feeling the effects of forest bathing already.

But next time... maybe I'll go without the kids. ;-)

Alpine Grove Plantation House

To learn more about Forest Bathing and how reconnecting with nature can improve your health, check out these sites:


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