“Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing to end them.”


Many of us who took Shakespeare in high school will recognize this quotation from the ‘to be or not to be’ soliloquy in Hamlet.


We all suffer the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” Life’s difficulties can be almost unbearable at times, such as when on a journey through relationship breakdown. But how do we navigate through to find a way to at least mitigate our suffering?


Let’s explore the idea that we may find solace and healing in nature.


This is not a new idea, of course, but for many of us in our busy and hyper-distracted culture, personal and direct contact with nature can easily become only a memory.


Have you heard of the term forest bathing? I must admit I laughed out loud when I first heard it. It’s a translation of the Japanese phrase Shinrin-yoku. Japanese doctors began prescribing the practice in response to a sharp rise in stress, depression, and autoimmune disorders back in the 1980s.


Rooted in ancient Shinto and Buddhist practices, Forest Bathing is defined as allowing “nature into your body and mind through the five senses of seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting.”


This is likely counter to the way most of us interact with nature. I know I’m usually quite purposeful when I’m in nature – hiking to a destination, x-country skiing for fitness, or perhaps looking to catch some fish. 


Not that these types of activities aren’t positive, but as I understand it, the healing practice of forest therapy means slowing down and approaching nature as a contemplative and meditative experience. We might focus intently on perhaps just one of our senses, such as focusing only on sights, sounds, or the texture, while in a forest or natural place. It can be solitary or shared; the key is being mindful and immersing yourself in the environment and the moment.


Settling our minds and reducing our stress also have positive physiological impacts, so our physical well-being improves. It’s fascinating that these benefits can accrue even with a trip to the local park or just sitting under a favorite tree.


Although I live in the inner city, I have a lovely natural spot that I enjoy. It’s down by the river, within walking distance of my home. Sometimes I’ll bring a thermos of coffee or tea. Usually, I sit on a rock and contemplate the light, the colors, the plants, and the insects. Who knew there were so many shades of green? Sometimes people bring their dogs, and I love seeing the pure joy of the dogs interacting with the water. It’s always a new day and a new experience.


I believe most of us intuitively know and have experienced the benefits of being in nature. Still, we might not think of deliberately engaging with nature as self-care, psychotherapy, or even healing. Perhaps this is something we should reconsider.


Where is your favorite, easy-to-access piece of outdoor nature?

In times of anxiety or despair, how might you remember to seek out nature to support you and calm you?

Could you bring some nature into your home, perhaps with houseplants or an aquarium?


With loving kindness,

Coach Billy