We are healthier when we get outdoors

 

Spring is back! This weather seems to call every cell of my body outside. In my last post, I promised to provide some information about how being outdoors impacts our well-being. I am now here to deliver on that promise…

CO rockies

The majority of the information I am going to offer here was primarily drawn from the book the Nature Fix by Florence Williams.*

It is a wonderful read – I highly recommend it!

In her book, she discusses the research of Qing Li, an immunologist from the department of environmental medicine at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo. Li’s research is fascinating… it focuses on NK cells, which are a type of white blood natural immune cell. He found that being outdoors boosts the number of these natural immune fighting cells in people’s bodies by 40%, with raised levels continuing to endure in our bodies for several weeks. Li suggests that our NK cells seem to be positively impacted by trees’ phytoncides, which are aromatic oils secreted by many kinds of trees.

In essence, trees support our immune system.

Andre and Amelie in xmas tree

Other researchers have found that just one leisurely walk in the woods decreases our cortisol levels (a stress hormone) by as much as 12%, decreases sympathetic nervous system activity by 7%, and decreases blood pressure by 1.4%

And did you know that a bacteria in dirt called Mycobacterium vaccae has been shown in multiple experiments to help promote the production of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter researchers associate with increased happiness?

Andre in Mohican

I am only brushing the surface of the research out there that supports the importance of our connection and engagement with the natural world.

So, get outdoors and enjoy!

Here’s to your relaxation, rejuvenation, and wellness.

Here’s to our precious natural world.

 

 

*Williams, F. (2017). the Nature Fix. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Fog over a frozen lake

So often I hear about the gray gloom of Midwestern winter. While I certainly understand the impact clouds and cold can have on so many people for all sorts of reasons (none of which I discount), I’m going to let you in on a personal secret: I actually love wintertime.

So, from this loving place in me, I’ll offer a window into my little February jaunt to Buckeye Lake. buckeye lake elizabeth taking a picture.jpgThis was my first time exploring the area. I was lucky to be guided by a very special person who shared with me personal stories that had unfolded for him within this landscape. As we walked towards the thawing lake, I curiously listened to his rich stories of times past on this land.

I noticed how breathtaking the dense fog was over the snow and ice, how the chill in the air seemed to awaken my whole body, and how the slight movements of the thawing lake caught my eye… Such meaning those uniquely winter moments held for me.

And I’m reminded by a poem by David Whyte entitled “Enough”:

Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.

This opening to life
we have refused
again and again
until now.

Until now.

Autumn Reflection

Today we had a reflective outdoor practice at Highbanks Metro Park in Columbus, Ohio on a beautiful autumn afternoon. Nobody participating in this month’s practice had met before, and each was entering the experience with a personal intention around releasing and letting go, in honor of the season. Together, we began by engaging in two guided grounding exercises to softly and fully mindfully “arrive” to greet the land, one another, and our own internal presence.

highbanks feet.jpgWe then began walking along a trail on metaphorical and meditative journey involving three chapters…

Chapter One: As we began to move along the trail, we quietly explored the earth’s supportive process of letting go in autumn and our own personal process of releasing and letting go.

Chapter Two: We slowed down our movement and noticed what happened in our thoughts, feelings, and sensations as we shifted off the trail, each of us finding an area that individually resonated and engaging in journaling, meditation, or simply resting.

Chapter Three: We returned to the trailhead and, as we did, noticed what we were leaving behind, as well as the support we have and need in order to transition and grow.

Highbanks tree oct 2017.jpg

Some of us expressed finding greatest peace when we were moving, with the rhythm and sounds of our feet as we took each step through the fallen leaves. Others expressed finding peace in the quiet, reflective resting phase of our journey.

Tar hollow pic

I loved most of all the scent of leaves, the sounds of the wind rustling the branches above us, and simply being in the company of such kind and compassionate people as we celebrated the earth’s fall season – and our own processes of letting go.

Lost

Elizabeth contemplating

All of us have experienced those moments in which not even the best map and compass can help us navigate our sensations of feeling lost inside. In these moments, we might notice rolling waves of grief, confusion, sorrow, and fear. We might feel our world has turned upside down. In one such pivotal moment in my life, my mentor offered me a poem. This poem has become one of my navigation tools, nudging me back into being “found” in those moments when I seem to have lost my way.

So, now it’s my turn to offer it to you:

Lost

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

~David Wagoner, 1976.

 

Our monthly offerings for fall/winter of 2017

laurel

Along with sharing reflections, this blog also serves the purpose of providing a platform to describe what we are offering to the community. Thus, we announce our

Monthly Outdoor Reflection Series

In this series, we will offer supportive facilitation to assist with grounding and centering in several beautiful natural settings. This will involve periods of movement (walking and/or gentle grounding exercises), periods of quiet reflection and/or exploration, and periods of optional sharing and reflecting with one another.

You are welcome to come to all 4 meetings in the series or just 1; we encourage you to do what feels right and manageable to you.

“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” -John Muir

Monthly Reflection Meetings for 2017:

Monday, September 18, 2017, 6 – 8pm:  Beginning the week with intention

Description: We will meet at the beautiful 120-acre Scioto Audubon Metro Park and together slowly unwind from the day through grounding and centering exercises, reconnect with our natural landscape surrounding and within us, and notice what natural intentions emerge.

Sunday, October 22, 2017, 3 – 5pm:   Autumn Reflection

Description: Amid colorful fall foliage, shale bluff, ravines, and tributary streams of Highbanks Metro Park, we will invite you to explore and ground in your own internal autumn – noticing and embodying our own processes of releasing and letting go.

Sunday, November 19, 2017, 3 – 5pm:  Gratitude & Renewal

Description: This will be a time in which we will welcome the creation of a restorative space together at Batelle Darby Creek Metro Park, facilitating an opportunity to more deeply connect with that which we carry within our bodies and spirits that resource us with vitality, strength, and peace.

Thursday, December 21, 2017, 6 – 8pm: Winter Solstice candlelight celebration

Description: This celebration of light and darkness, both within and surrounding us, will take place in the outdoor courtyard at 1550 Old Henderson Road, followed by shared reflection, nourishment, and tea in the warmth of the indoors.

Pricing:

If you register for one meeting at a time, the cost is $50 each.

If you register for two meetings at a time, the cost is a total of $80.

If you register for all four meetings at a time, the cost is a total of $150.

To reserve your space or if you have any questions, please contact Elizabeth Olate at olate.elizabeth@gmail.com or 614-390-6482. All of our activities will happen rain, shine, or snow. We will notify you if we cancel for potentially dangerous conditions such as torrential downpours, lightning or snowstorms. Please dress in ways that feel comfortable and warm/dry for you.

Facilitator Description

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Elizabeth Olate, MA, MSW, LISW-S, is a nature-lover, mother, and psychotherapist. In her private practice, she specializes primarily in working with adults and adolescents on issues related to trauma, anxiety, and depression. Elizabeth has taught classes at The Ohio State University at the undergraduate and graduate levels, she has led clinical training workshops as well as intensive therapeutic retreats, facilitated therapeutic groups (in indoor and outdoor settings), and she has engaged in clinical work with individuals and families since 2004.

In addition to her therapeutic work, Elizabeth has always been an explorer and lover of the wild outdoors. She is certified in Wilderness First Aid and engages in backpacking, hiking, and camping outings locally and throughout the United States. In addition, she completed a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) course in wilderness expedition leadership and guidance. Elizabeth combines her knowledge of gestalt and somatic therapeutic practices with her reverence for and connection with the natural world, drawing on nature as a resource for enhancing self-awareness, connection, and awakening.

When Elizabeth is not at work in her private practice or out in the wild, she enjoys the presence of her family and friends, and trying out culinary “experiments”.