The simplest things are often the ones we overlook. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. We search for solutions to our problems which are as complicated as we believe the problems to be.
I want to lose weightYou should eat less and focus on healthy foods.Nah.
I want to get into better shape.You should exercise or go for a brisk walk regularly.Nope
I want to get a better night of sleep.You should go to bed earlier and stop scrolling through Instagram and Facebook at night.Isn’t there a pill I can take?
All the way back to the biblical account of Naaman, humans have tended to reject the solutions that we view as too simplistic. Naaman was a commander in the Syrian army and an all-around important dude. He was also a leper who sought healing. When Elisha the prophet prescribed the treatment of bathing in the Jordan River seven times, Naaman was insulted and refused. He was looking for something far more complicated and befitting a man of his stature.
We are very busy, very important, very complicated people.
Or are we?
Whether you believe we crawled out of a primordial sludge billions of years ago via an evolutionary coincidence or that we were placed intentionally in a garden by our creator, the pairing remains the same: humans and nature.
At Home Instead Senior Care, we pay close attention to the benefits of nature. We know that for many of the clients we serve home=safe. At home there are fewer variables, fewer unpredictable situations, and fewer potentially embarrassing moments. As a result, seniors can tend to become reclusive. Our caregivers are encouraged from the beginning to fight this reclusivity wherever possible.
A walk on a sunny day has obvious health benefits to the cardiovascular system. It can increase strength as well as balance and coordination. The X factor in the middle of that situation is the “sunny” part. Can something as simple as sunshine really heal what ails us? Isn't the cure for what ails us more complicated than that?
The Japanese have coined a phrase for this type of cutting edge therapy. Shinrin-yoku has become an increasing part of the culture in Japan since the early 1980’s. Quite simply it means forest bathing. Go for a walk in the woods. Take your shoes off. Hug a tree. Wade into a cool stream. Take deep breath of fresh air. The Japanese believe so strongly in this concept that it has become a mainstay of preventative healthcare in their country. Therapists who specialize in the technique will help coordinate and advise trips into the woods for their patients.
It sounds like nonsense spouted out of the most recent issue of some hippy journal. While that may seem like the case, some evidence is harder to argue with. Okinawa is known as the ‘land of immortals’ due to the incredible preponderance of seniors. Last year, Japan earned a unique distinction with more than 2 million of its citizens passing the 90 year mark. Life expectancy in Japan is also more than five years higher than in the United States.
When the Japanese tell you to go hug a tree, grab some bark.
In addition to the medical benefits, the non-tangible plusses of spending time exposed to nature are as hard to prove as they are hard to deny. A sunny day just makes you feel better. There is something relaxing about a walk through the trees. The sound of a babbling brook helps you sleep. These are the powerful medicines we encourage our caregivers to prescribe for our clients everywhere it is possible. As caregivers, our job is not simply task management. Our job is help our clients live lives of meaning, joy and significance.
As it turns out, ours is a job better done outdoors.