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.

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

 IMG_0395

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”.

 

Wilderness Practice at Red River Gorge

“Modern psychotherapy is almost universally practiced during a fifty-minute hour in an office, in a building, in a city or suburb. The pattern is all but automatic; opening a ‘practice’ means opening an ‘office’ that must usually be reached by driving a car along a congested freeway through a threatening city.  Ecopsychology poses a powerful challenge to such therapeutic business as usual. It reminds us that the original environment in which teachers and healers sought to save people’s souls was the natural environment, and the farther from ‘civilization,’ the better. Is it possible that certain unconscious assumptions about the world are built into the city? Do those assumptions prevent both therapist and client from finding the most effective kind of healing? Is urban culture itself concealing repressed contents that need to be reclaimed and returned to consciousness for analysis?

Wilderness therapy – or ‘practice,’ as Steven Harper prefers to call it, by way of making a vital distinction – is the boldest ecopsychological method so far developed for raising questions like these. It abandons the office, the city, the clock in favor of a setting that more closely corresponds to the natural habitat that has always been used by traditional cultures for healing the troubled soul. As Harper suggests, the authentic experience of wilderness undercuts all our suppositions about the ‘civilized’ and the ‘primitive’ in ways that can deliver a ‘reality shock.’ If we approach nature as he proposes, we may find ourselves asking where the ‘wilderness’ really is. Is it perhaps within us, still waiting to be explored?”*

In my career, I identify as a therapist who meets people from all walks of life for outpatient therapy in my indoor private practice nestled in Columbus, Ohio. And I identify as a practitioner who meets people from all walks of life for wilderness practice in natural wild landscape.

I reside in a city with a population a little shy of 1,000,000 people; my solace unfolds in the wilderness. As Russell and I invite others into the wilds, we learn how they too often experience a deepened sense of themselves in connection with soil and rock beneath their feet. They seem to experience belonging in new (ancient) ways.

Our backpacking trip to Red River Gorge in Kentucky was intended to be a facilitator retreat; we had much to discuss about determining our next steps moving forward with projects for our program NSWE (Natural Step Wilderness Experience).

When we moved into a natural area of Corbin Sandstone formed over an estimated 300 million years, however, our agenda shifted into the periphery.

How could we not be captivated?

We arrived. We were reminded that nature is our facilitator; we are mere student participants, naturally exploring moment to moment.

So, instead we experienced a deepened sense of ourselves in connection with the soil and rock beneath our feet. We experienced belonging to our earth in new (ancient) ways.

Elizabeth on the bridge.jpg

WildflowerRock picCampsite & Russell making a fire

 

Fungus

Elizabeth walking on the rock

 

*Roszak, T. (2014). Foreward to the way of wilderness. Retrieved from http://www.stevenkharper.com/wayofwilderness.html.