A Walk in the Woods

[highlight_dark]”Your mind is your servant, your body is your vehicle and your soul is your residence.” Yogi Bhajan.[/highlight_dark] Many people are stressed out and distracted more than ever. Unfortunately, there is no app for that. There is however a radically simple remedy; get outside. Nature can lower your blood pressure; fight off depression, and dissolve stress and anxiety consequently helping you build harmonious relationships.

woodsWhen we naturally seek out nature; we have a sense of wellbeing and serenity. When we are enveloped in natural surroundings it strikes a chord in us; it reminds us in the deepest most basic way that we are an integral part of the natural world. When we forget that we are nature we suffer. This simple, yet profound, realisation that we are part of the natural world is at the core of Living from The Heart.

Shinrin-yoku means taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing, the Japanese Ministry coined the term and the encouraged people to visit forests to relieve stress, anxiety and improve health. Spending time in nature around trees or in green spaces can improve your health; it can reduce stress hormones cortisol and increase your immune defence system. According to Yoshifumi Miyazaki, Japan’s leading scholar on forest medicine, a walk in the forest calms a worried mind improves your health and may even help fight cancer.

Nature restores mental functioning in the same way that food and water restore bodies.

On Living from The Heart Retreats we work outside in nature and guide meditative walks or shinrin-yoku.  It provides an instant antidote for stressed out individuals and couples in conflict and healing balm; relieving stress healing trauma and helping the immune system recover from stress and anxiety. Forest bathing is good for both the body and the spirit. Our bodies are part of nature and when we are in nature, to there is a natural healing to it.

[quotes] ‘I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.’ John Burroughs[/quotes]

Health Benefits of Meditative walks and spending time in nature

A prescription with no negative side effects
  • Boosts immune system
  • Relief from chronic back pain
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves mood
  • Increases ability to focus
  • Accelerates recovery from surgery or illness
  • Increases energy level
  • Improves sleep
  • Improves libido
  • Heals emotional pain
  • Calms the mind and body
  • decreased blood glucose levels in diabetic patients
  • decreased stress hormones
  • decreased heart rate
  • general relaxation of the human body (increased parasympathetic nervous system activity)
  • possible boost to the immune system (reduced cortisol is associated with increased immune function)
  • decreased depression, stress and anxiety
  • decreased anger
  • decreased fatigue and confusion
  • increased psychological vigour

[quotes]‘In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. ‘John Muir[/quotes]

I take much care when choosing environments to work in and run retreats, workshops and training which lend themselves to healing mind, body and spirit. I lead Individuals, couples and group outdoor psychotherapy, Meditative nature walks or shinrin yoku focused on healing Trauma and transforming stress and anxiety into vitality. This approach involves exploring your emotional issues while being in and walking in a natural location such as woodland or urban parks and Heaths. You may find it much easier to talk and open up while working and walking in the outdoors.  The next Living from The Heart Retreat on 1st– 8th September 2016 will take place in a tranquil location in the forested hills of Central Portugal, far away from the crowds, just 3 km from the beautiful ‘Castelo de Bode’ lake and 8 km from the small town of Cernache de Bonjardim. The venue sits within a small valley surrounded by eucalyptus, pine and oak. Full of chi, the Trees with full, lush foliage create masses of the Qi or Chi (pronounced chee) life force that deflects toxic energy. 

Phytoncides – Wood essential oils

The natural chemicals trees secrete are collectively known as phytoncides. When we breathe in fresh air, we breathe in wood essential oils, airborne chemicals that plants give off to protect themselves from insects. Wood essential oils have antibacterial and antifungal qualities which help plants fight disease. When we breathe in these chemicals, our bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells or NK. These cells kill tumours and virus infected cells in your body.

A Natural Balm for Stress, Depression and Anxiety

Spending time in nature increases endorphins. Taking a walk in nature or  shinrin yoku  is a sensory experience all five (six) senses are enveloped. It gives peace and calm to the mind. Depression is an insidious set of symptoms that harms your mood, your motivation for life, and your relationships. Being in nature and simply sitting looking at the trees reduce blood pressure as well as the stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Forest bathing or shinrin yoku significantly decreases anxiety, depression, anger, confusion and fatigue, because stress inhibits the immune system, the stress-reduction benefits are magnified in tandem with psychotherapy. When your environments are overloaded with stimulus  or you are involved with multitasking over a long period can cause a drain on your internal resources. The best way to develop greater happiness and build internal strength is to have frequent experiences of  peace and calm.When you have  peace of mind and an open heart your relationships are harmonious.Healing Trauma

Can you see clearly now that wherever your mind is, wherever your thoughts are, is where you are and where your Body is?

Watch your Energy Levels

Many eastern traditions describe your energy field, including your body, as a unique map. The body stores information about the cause of a problem or an illness, the body also reveals what is needed in order to heal. Your thoughts, emotions, feelings and beliefs and your inner experiences positive or negative  are energetically recorded in your energy field.

Illness begins from experiencing a problem with your energy levels. This is connected to your emotions and your mind and body. Dis-ease can exist many years before it physically presents itself as a dis – ease. Low energy may be experienced as a blockage or decrease of your energy or levels leading to a chi imbalance in particular organs or parts of the body. Many people overlook emotions as illness. It may signal the imbalance of chi, prana or Shakti in your system. Stubbornness can be caused by an imbalance of the heart energy. Fear can be due to an imbalance of the lung or the kidneys. Back pain can be caused by an imbalance of the kidneys and bladder. Many emotional and physical ailments can be traced to an imbalance of prana / chi in different parts of the body. You are lucky enough to be gifted with a period of grace due to the body’s resilience move towards  balance and  health.

[quotes]‘There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, There is a rapture on the lonely shore, There is society, where none intrudes, By the deep sea, and music in its roar: I love not man the less, but Nature more, From these our interviews, in which I steal From all I may be, or have been before, To mingle with the Universe, and feel What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.’ Lord Byron[/quotes]

The Psychobiology of Stress

Stress can increase your susceptibility to dis-ease. Stressful life experiences can have significant effects on a variety of physiological systems, including the autonomic nervous system, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and the immune system. Stressful life events such as:

  • Death of a spouse, family member, or friend
  • Divorce or separation
  • Relationship crisis and difficulties
  • Personal injury or illness
  • Marriage
  • Losing your job
  • Retirement
  • Drastic change in the health of a family member
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Birth of a child
  • Trauma
  • Change in business status
  • Change in financial status
  • Unresolved relationship issues
These life events can alter immune functions your mood and ability to cope with life. When your nervous system gets a jolt of stress, your body reacts in the same way that it would if you were in imminent danger of death. It is your nature to express what impacts you. When you restrict your expression you lose your resonance and no longer are able to vibrate in the chorus of life force. The impact is stored in the body. The natural flow is interrupted the energy comes in but does not leave the body. It creates a blockage in your system. Your nervous system alerts your brain that there is danger your brain receives a signal and jumps into action into a fight-or-flight response. This affects how you respond to the world including your relationship with yourself and others.
Trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can take many forms and occur at any life stage. The impact of trauma is especially pronounced in childhood. What may be traumatic to one individual may not be traumatic to another; it is your perception of “threat” that determines the intensity of your reaction. The effects of long-term trauma result from recurring situations or experiences cannot be easily alleviated or temporarily managed through stress-reduction techniques alone. When healing Trauma, stress, anxiety, pain or struggle that is felt or over time can become “frozen” into physical symptoms. Recurring trauma can lead to a state of apathy, hopelessness, and even rage and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Common Symptoms of Unresolved Trauma

Unresolved trauma can manifest in many ways, including anxiety disorders, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, panic attacks, intrusive memories flashbacks, obsessive-compulsive behaviours, addictions and self harm.

• Anxiety, stress • Panic attacks • Intrusive thoughts, flashbacks • Shame • Exaggerated emotions • Irritability • Mood fluctuations • Disorientation • Extreme sensibility to heat or cold • Heart Palpitations
• Sleep Disturbances, nightmares • Unexplained illnesses / pain • Hyper vigilance • Avoidance behaviours • Attraction to dangerous situations or high-risk behaviours • Nausea • Headaches • Dizziness, trembling, fainting

Individuals may suffer from repeating familiar scenarios, which are unconscious, habitual reenactments of elements of  past traumatic experience which is classic of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. You may repeat  scenarios you experienced or witnessed  such as physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. For example, a survivor of childhood abuse may ‘unwittingly’ select an abusive partner in adult life, you may have grown up witnessing domestic violence and may demonstrate the same abusive behaviours toward others that were modeled to you  in the past. Growing up in an unsupportive or unstable environment can create negative internal messages and beliefs about how loving relationships work. Childhood trauma can create difficulty with  feeling emotions and impair your ability to think and reason in the grip of emotion. As a general rule, anything destructive that is left untreated — disease, trauma, stress, psychological disorders — can become progressively worse over time. “Trauma that is not genuinely felt will be reenacted in either symptom or behaviour and ultimately recreated in intimate relationships.” — Robert Naborsky, MD

Putting on the Brakes for Trauma and Stress

One of Graham Greene’s characters famously said, “I suffer, therefore I am,” suggesting that pain is an inescapable, and perhaps incurable, part of the human condition. Through the use of mind-body techniques, healing trauma is possible, using rich practices and nature.  Nature can provide symbols, archetypes and images of a healing nature that can provide an impetus for personal transformation that  forms part of the therapeutic process.

Stress, anxiety, tensions Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and personal limitations can be transformed into relaxation, harmony and inner freedom. When you begin to observe your inner world your nervous system moves into a self-healing flow, unwinding energies and tensions. Your life energy, which has been frozen in a trauma, requires an  enormous amount of energy, you need a  resourceful, safe space to transform this into vitality through acknowledging and releasing what has remained frozen in you.

When this occurs the body and the nervous system relaxes, it becomes possible to process and move through layers of fear and frozen emotions and responses  returning to a natural balance. I encourage people to say stop when they feel they are spiralling out of control. I ask them to imagine a full stop at the end of their sentence, at the end of an emotion, a response or a perception. When you are feeling vulnerable, or in  painful emotional state, follow these steps

Breathe. Find a safe place, push the stop button and find some stillness. Breathe.

Breathe. Identify your feelings. Breathe.

Breathe. Take good care of yourself and find activities that are self-soothing. Breathe.

Breathe. Find a supportive and understanding person to  talk about your thoughts, feeling and reactions. Breathe.

Breathe.  Rest, sleep and eat well.  Get outside and use your body in a way that feels good.  Breathe.

Breathe. Attempt to resolve conflicts and identify what triggered a re-enactment and what fuelled the symptoms. Get professional help. Breathe.

Breathe. Think and speak positively. Breathe.

When you slow down, it is possible to explore your physical responses and your experiences in the here and  now.

Healing Trauma and Stress

Healing Trauma and working with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, stress and anxiety is based on Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing Approach. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 23 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders many as a direct result of trauma. As  researcher at the University of California at Berkeley, Peter Levine found that all animals, including humans, are born with a natural ability to rebound from these distressing situations.

‘Evolution has provided us with a way to deal with trauma the moment it happens—yet our cultural training overrides our body’s natural instinct about what to do. The result is that we often store the energy of trauma in the body leading to unexplained physical problems, emotional issues, and psychological blockages’.

Training with  Babette Rothschild was illuminating on the impact of trauma on the body Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the phenomenon of somatic memory. People who have experienced trauma hold an implicit memory of traumatic events in their brains and bodies. That memory is often expressed in the symptomatology of post traumatic stress disorder-nightmares, flashbacks, startle responses, and dissociative behaviours. In Healing Trauma I help clients to  access what is happening inside and help them learn to restore their systems back into balance and health. From identifying how and where you store unresolved stress, trauma, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and anxiety, to become more aware of your body’s physiological responses to danger and practicing specific methods to free yourself from trauma, learning  how to address unexplained symptoms at their source—your body—and return to balance and health a natural state in which you were meant to live.

I use a range of intuitive and energetic Mind/ Body systems blending Eastern and Western approaches and techniques that can really shift stress and anxiety states into vitality. Helping people to manage symptoms and move into healing and growth.  Simply being in nature can calm the rush of panic in Mind, Body and spirit. By coming in contact with an experience using all five senses it can give expression to feelings  which were unable to be processed by the body and mind. As the body releases blocked energy you are able to open up to innate wisdom of spontaneity, creativity, and authenticity in thinking and problem solving moving into balance and health. Para-theatre views the physical body as the embodiment of the subconscious mind, ‘the only way to release forces trapped inside the physical body are to unleash deep feelings, energies, and give vocal expression to what lies trapped inside the muscles.’Antero Alli

[quotes]‘I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.’ Henry David Thoreau[/quotes]

[highlight_dark][/highlight_dark]How do you manage stress? I would love to hear your questions and thoughts in the comments!