Wellbeing and woodlands

I’m an outdoor type, pretty much ‘free-range’ I don’t like to be cooped up for very long. I watch birds mainly and whilst I watch them I see other stuff too, other animals, plants, butterflies and insects, yes, the lot, but it also makes me very aware of seasons, the weather and even the skies, both in the light and the dark. I spend time with my family, with my dogs or by myself walking and poking around in new places, finding new things to read about and to observe. It is my relaxation, taking me away at weekends from my work and allowing my head to unwind and allowing my body, for a good few hours, to walk and exercise.

I’ve been doing this for many years and pretty aware of my outdoor surroundings and it always feels great, rain or shine, to take a very early morning walk in my local woodlands where the cacophony of birdsong soon becomes like a well organised orchestra and I can identify every bird by its individual notes and habits.

I surprised myself enormously a few weeks ago with the impact of an article in LEAF, the magazine of the UK’s Woodland Trust; an article on wellbeing around woodland activities and more specifically, ’woodland bathing’. ie, absorbing the atmosphere of the woods, for wellbeing. The Japanese, of course, have a name for it, Shinrin yoku. Sounds good I thought, not too strenuous, I’ll give it a go.

In practice, I felt a little conspicuous (yes, go on, a bit silly) just in case someone did stumble by and find me eyes closed and ‘tuned-out’; I walk the woods frequently and usually don’t see anyone, but as the law of Sod says, today will be the day when the coach party walks through! So, I found a spot where I was less likely to be seen, picked a very large oak and I sat down, back against the trunk. I had a drink of my water, took some deep breaths (just like the breathing tool in Kiqplan) and shut my eyes. This is the end of July and early morning but as England weather goes, it’s hot and sunny. I strained my ears, locked my eyes tight shut and listened hard. I started to pick out the brief summer calls of a few birds and insects buzzing and started to let my muscles relax, less strain to my hearing and eyes closed only gently. When I heard noises less familiar I slowly and briefly opened my eyes; a blackbird turned leaves to pick at bugs, a deer walked by silently and woodpigeons flapped and took off in the tree above. I could hear lots of movement but I was also now tried my sense of smell too; woodland floor and old leaves dampened with dew overnight and a faint smell of old flowers and grasses. I also had my fingers on the bark of the oak and could feel the shape and pattern of the bark and the coolness of the mosses growing on it. With the warmth of the sun shining through the dense leaf cover, I sat like this for what felt like a fair amount of time. When I did get to my feet and check my watch, it had been only around half an hour and I felt like I’d woken from a deep sleep; It felt great!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/natureuk/entries/b2c35c4f-5f8d-47f2-90d7-b27411d3c2ba

https://www.growwilduk.com/blog/2015/12/03/5-simple-steps-practising-shinrin-yoku-forest-bathing

Richard Goodlad
MD – UK & Europe.
Richard has an extensive background as a strategic business leader, with a reputation for delivering revenue growth, cost efficiencies and P&L performance within a diverse range of sectors. Recognised as an extremely effective communicator; with the gravitas to influence and operate at the very highest level. With a long commute daily from his home 60 miles north of London he finds keeping fit, eating and sleeping well, requires planning and routines. He makes the best of weekends getting outside to indulge in his passion for wildlife and walking;in whatever weather is thrown his way. With long summer nights and light mornings walking his dogs is great but it still needs to be done in winter so clad in warm clothes he finds walking and listening to a good book is both relaxing and rewarding.

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