Group Tries ‘Forest Bathing’ to Deal with Stress


Please click here to enjoy the video.

By Chelsey Trahan Austin November 29, 2018 @7:30 PM. Please click here to enjoy the video.

AUSTIN, Texas —Studies show that spending time outdoors can help with mental and physical health.

  • Study says spending time outdoors can be good for mental, physical health
  • Groups are going outdoors to “forest bathe”
  • Experience includes slow paced hike, meditation

That's why some are putting down their phones and stepping outside to "forest bathe."

It's not what you think, this sort of bathing doesn't involve water at all.

Melanie Choukas-Bradley spends her days as a nature and forest therapy guide. She also is an award-winning nature book author. She said connecting with the nature can provide a variety of health benefits.

"When you spend time with trees and in natural places, you have calmer thoughts and it increases your focus and creativity," Bradley said.

Bradley took a group into the woods Thursday to experience forest bathing for the first time at YMCA's Camp Moody.

It's not exactly a hike. It's a slower paced experience that includes meditation.

"Just the whole concept of it gives it a different flavor than a hike," Heather Kuhlken with Austin Families in Nature said.

It was a different experience, even though Kuhlken also spends her time getting families out and about in nature.

"This was a really nice break from the movement of taking 30 people out on a trail," she said. "I feel much better, much more peaceful and calm after having some time in nature and really being able to look around and be present"

Bradley says all you need to do is find a "wild" home, whether it's your backyard, a park, or some green space at your job.

The process entails taking the time to listen, look, smell, and touch the nature around you, then, be still, meditate, and reflect on what you are experiencing.



105.5 (Local Author Bonus Special) [LABS] -
"The Joy of Forest Bathing"
with Melanie Choukas-Bradley

By Discovered by Player FM and our community —
copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio streamed directly from their servers.

Nature helps you have a quicker recovery time.

Today's featured award-winning local author from the DMV area is naturalist and long-time Washington Post contributor, Melanie Choukas-Bradley. Melanie and I talk about what forest bathing is, the benefits of increased exposure to nature and more!

The opening track is titled, "Uyama X Chrono (Walk in the Sunset + Secret of the Forest)" by madxruler (formally known as Ruler Inc.) 


Interview with Melanie Choukas-Bradley
Forest Bathing

Discover the art of forest bathing with an interview with award-winning author, Melanie Choukas-Bradley and her book, "The Joy of Forest Bathing." This is part 1 of a 7-part Forest Bathing meditation series, episodes 1634-1640.

All meditations are created by Mary Meckley and are her original content. Please request permission to use any of Mary's content by sending an email to Mary@sipandom.com.




RVFTA #202 "The Joy of Forest Bathing"

with Melanie Choukas-Bradley



Melanie and Friend Natasha enjoying a forest bathing walk

After reading Melanie's newest book, “The Joy of Forest Bathing: Reconnect with Wild Places & Rejuvenate Your Life,” Stephanie and Jeremy Puglisi, co-hosts of the RV Family Travel Atlas podcasts, decided to try forest bathing for themselves. In their blog they describe their first forest bathing forays. Their captivating podcast discussion with Melanie will enhance your understanding and appreciation of forest bathing.


Forest Bathing: Enjoying the Wonders of Nature

From the Show: HER
Summary: Step into nature, breathe deeply and improve your wellness.
Air Date: 9/6/18
Duration: 31:36
Host: Michelle King Robson and Pam Peeke, MD

Forest Bathing: Enjoying the Wonders of Nature
Shinrin yoku is a practice that started in Japan in the 1980s, encouraging people to go into nature and breath in deeply. It’s also called forest bathing.

You can forest bathe in whatever “wild home” is available to you—a backyard, park or garden will do.

Rules of Engagement for Forest Bathing

  1. Put your phone in airplane mode to prepare for forest bathing. Disengaging from electronics provides the best mindset.
  2. Get comfortable and relax. Tune into your senses and your surroundings.
  3. Transition back into daily life. Favorite poems and quotes about nature make a nice wrap-up. Tea and a snack punctuate the forest bathing.
While two to four hours are preferred for forest bathing, not every schedule can accommodate. Take advantage of 10- to 15-minute trips if your schedule is tight.

Listen as Melanie Choukas-Bradley joins Dr. Pamela Peeke to share the joys of forest bathing.


Everything You Need to Know About Forest Bathing

It isn’t hard to do, it can improve your health and well-being.

Modern life can wear you down. Many of us spend an extraordinary amount of time hunched over computers at work, and then commute home only to spend the evening hunched in front of phones and televisions. Modern conveniences can be necessary and often helpful, but they can sometimes leave you feeling... well, less than your best self. One possible solution? Swapping buildings for trees. Forest bathing, aka shinrin-yoku in Japanese (where the idea originated) is the practice of going into the woods—either alone or with others—with the goal of unplugging, unwinding, and connecting with nature. “Forest bathing is full immersion in the beauty and wonder of nature,” says Melanie Choukas-Bradley, author of The Joy of Forest Bathing: Reconnect with Wild Places & Rejuvenate Your Life.

According to Choukas-Bradley, forest bathing started in the 1980s, but it's rooted in the ancient Japanese reverence for nature that's woven into the Shinto and Buddhist tradition. Forest bathing has been growing in popularity, and it helps that there’s research that points to physical and mental benefits of the practice. A recent review of over 100 medical studies found that spending time in greenspace was associated with a ton of benefits, like improved cardiovascular health, decreased incidences of asthma and stroke, and better self-reported health. Another review of studies from the past decade found that people not only felt more relaxed after forest bathing but had lower blood pressure, too.

You don’t need special equipment or skills to forest bathe, and you can do it pretty much anywhere. A local park, nearby woods, or even your own backyard can all work. You can forest bathe for 20 minutes, or an entire day. You can even go on longer guided forest bathing expeditions, hosted by forest therapy guides, certified by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides & Program in Sonoma, California. Whatever works for you.

After picking a location, dress in comfortable clothing and shoes. Pack a backpack with plenty of water, snacks, and a mat if you plan to lie down. When you get to the location, turn off your phone or put it in airplane mode. As Choukas-Bradley explains, “I tell people to think of the airplane mode on their phones as forest-bathing mode.”

From there, you head into the area to explore. “You're not really going on a big hike,” says Choukas-Bradley. “It's not a destination thing. It's more akin to mindfulness practices like tai chiyoga, and meditation, where you're going to be moving slowly. Sometimes you're walking slowly. Sometimes you're sitting or lying on the ground or leaning up against a tree.”

The goal is slow down and tune in with all of your senses. Look around and take in the beauty. Smell the flowers, the bark, and the earth. Listen to the rustling of leaves, the sounds of animals, and any water if there’s some nearby. Touch your surroundings—as long as you’re not disturbing anything and you’re sure it’s not poisonous!

The goal is to disconnect from all of the hustle and bustle and connect to the earth. “This is a wonderful planet that we live on, and there's so much to experience here, and we are all so busy that we just don't take the time to slow down and notice how beautiful our surroundings are,” says Choukas-Bradley. Please excuse me while I close my laptop and do just that.


12 Days of Giving: The Gift of Nature

Posted by  | Dec 13, 2018 | 

This is the first in our special “12 Days of Giving” series running for the holiday season. It’s a little different from what you might think of as traditional presents or giving. We aren’t really talking about stuff you buy or a gift list. Rather, on these 12 days, we will be talking about different gifts that you can give to yourself, or others — gifts that have a deeper meaning, that can help you live with intention, be happier, be healthier. Soul gifts, you might even call them. Join us on the journey.

The Gift of Nature: Connecting with the Natural World Through the Japanese Art of Forest Bathing

It’s that moment when you step away from the man-made world and into the natural one, that your senses seem to heighten, your body’s stress levels lower, and your mind’s always-churning to-do list begins to quiet.

Whether it’s a five-minute walk through your local park or sitting in your own backyard, a miles-long hike in a forest, or a multi-day camping trip: there’s always that sense of peace. Relaxation. Of coming home.

This, my friends, is what we were born into — the natural world. This is where we originated from, and where we are meant to be. Our ancestors had no skyscrapers, cars, shopping malls, computers. They were fully engaged with nature for everything: their food, medicine, homes, livelihood and very existence. But for most of us living in today’s busy, modern society, that world seems all too far away most of the time.

And so we become more and more disconnected. More harried and stressed. More tied to technology, until we’re unsure if we own our devices or if they own us. There’s always something else to do, to think about, somewhere else to go, another mission to accomplish.

But sometimes, we need to just slow down.

Don’t get me wrong here — I’m no hard-core outdoors type of person. Don’t think I’m coming to you as one of those bad-asses who runs marathons or wild camps in the remote wilderness. My idea of camping firmly includes access to running water, a comfortable sleeping spot, and wine.

At the same time, I connect with nature at a primal level, and on a regular basis. We all do. But if you’re anything like me, it’s not nearly enough. You may sometimes wonder, like I do, how we can more easily disconnect for an hour, even, and let the healing, calming force of nature root us down again.

Welcome to shinrin-yoku, a Japanese tradition that is loosely defined as “forest bathing.” I was introduced to this concept a couple of weeks ago — I had never heard the term before. What is this forest bathing, I wondered. Is it some kind of weird ritual where I have to go in the woods and jump in a river or unclothe and roll around in the grass or something? It sounded a little hippy-dippy, to be honest — but I’m kind of a granola, hippy-dippy sort of woman and always interested to learn something new. So, I was intrigued.

Shinrin-yoku, forest bathing, as it turns out is simply this: a full sensory immersion in the beauty and wonder of nature.

It’s experiencing nature with all your senses — not just seeing it, or touching it as you walk through it, but hearing it, smelling it, even tasting it. A raindrop on your tongue. The way a stream sounds as it gurgles over the rocks beside you. That hint of pine in the air as you enter a stand of conifer trees. It’s letting nature wash over you.

Rooted in the ancient Japanese reverence for nature, the practice of shinrin-yoku was started in Japan in the early 1980s, as a program to try and get the overworked citizens of Tokyo and other large cities to leave the urban areas for short periods, to spend some quiet, healing time in a nearby forest. Today, there are many designated shinrin-yoku forest and trails throughout Japan, and hundreds of thousands of people immerse themselves in them each year — taking advantage of the way nature restores mental equilibrium and physical health.

Rooted in the ancient Japanese reverence for nature, the practice of shinrin-yoku was started in Japan in the early 1980s, as a program to try and get the overworked citizens of Tokyo and other large cities to leave the urban areas for short periods, to spend some quiet, healing time in a nearby forest. Today, there are many designated shinrin-yoku forest and trails throughout Japan, and hundreds of thousands of people immerse themselves in them each year — taking advantage of the way nature restores mental equilibrium and physical health.

I learned all of this from Melanie Choukas-Bradley, a Certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide. Based out of Washington, D.C., Melanie has traveled throughout Japan participating in forest bathing walks led by shinrin-yoku guides; and she’s the author of The Joy of Forest Bathing: Reconnect With Wild Places & Rejuvenate Your LifeI was invited on a forest bathing walk led by her, taking place at YMCA’s Camp Moody in Buda, Texas, just south of where I live in Austin.

I arrived at Camp Moody that morning with an eagerness to learn more about this practice, connect with nature and explore something new. Melanie, who had what she calls a “free-range childhood,” writes in her book that most of us have very early, strong memories of experiences with nature. For her, it was the first time she saw a perfect snowflake.

I was walking home from school on a path through the woods when a single snow crystal landed on a flat, dark rock in front of me. I knelt down and watched more snowflakes fall from the sky and land on the rock, each one perfect, each one unique, but perhaps none as perfect as the first. The dream-like quality of the snowflake memory is much like my other childhood memories of nature enchantment: finding the first woodland wildflowers just after snow melt in the spring; lying on a bed of moss and looking up into the leafy branches of a white birch tree; diving into a cold ocean wave and then burying myself in the warm sand. Childhood nature memories can easily be called up by a specific fragrance, a sound, a sight, or a general feeling of well-being.

Melanie was there to greet our small group of about eight at the main pavilion of the camp, which is pretty much undeveloped land right now — seeming to make it a perfect location for forest bathing. Camp Moody is an 85-acre multi-use site for day and overnight camps, group events, retreats and outdoor education. Nestled along Onion Creek and scenic limestone bluffs, the YMCA has big plans for some really cool development of the property that was donated by George Yonge in 1999, which includes cabins, dining and recreational facilities to fit in with the natural world around it.

Megan Arnold with the YMCA said that the goal of Camp Moody is to connect families to nature. “With kids being connected to technology about seven-and-a-half hours per day, we’re raising a generation that isn’t connected to nature,” she said. “They might not care about preservation, our national parks, etc. We want to change that.” In keeping with the Y mission, they are also making sure Camp Moody is accessible to all, financially, geographically and physical ability-wise.

Before we began the walk, Melanie set our expectations. “This isn’t going to be a vigorous, aerobic ‘hike,'” she said. “It isn’t goal-oriented; the point is to go slow, to take it all in, to be aware of the surroundings and discover the nature around us.” What she was saying reminded me of what John Muir said about hiking:

“I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not hike! Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, ‘A la sainte terre — To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers, or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.” ~John Muir

And so we set out on our “saunter” — or rather, our forest bathing, a notion that I suspect that John Muir would have liked a great deal. Melanie invited us to walk in silence, to just enjoy the peace of nature and use all our sense to take it in as we moved through it. After a few minutes we reached the banks of a gurgling creek and paused for the first of her invitations.

As we moved along our walk through nature, Melanie would issue an invitation for us to choose to take or leave. Listen to what you hear; notice what is moving around you; choose something that speaks to you. Every so often we would stop, and each person could share with the group if they so chose.

At one spot down by a small running stream, we took a longer pause to find our own little spot and spend silent time immersing ourselves in the forest. The water running over the rocks was so soothing, and already — after less than half an hour in nature — I was feeling gloriously, refreshingly disconnected from the outside world. It would all still be waiting for me when I got back to it, so there was no need to do anything except be fully present in this moment. To enjoy the feeling of being once again primally connected to the earth and where we came from, and away from the hustle-and-bustle of modern life. I listened to the water, breathed in the clear air deeply, and became intrigued with a fuzzy caterpillar making its way over leaf by leaf in the little stream.



Melanie had told us a little about the mountains of research that has shown what a real, measurable positive effect time spent in nature has on us. It’s been proven to lower our blood pressure, pulse rates and cortisol levels; increase heart rate variability (this is a good thing!); and improve mood. As her book on forest bathing says, plants generate compounds called phytoncides to protect themselves from pathogens, and when we are in nature, these same airborne phytoncides that we breath in may even help protect our human bodies in ways that could increase our immunity to things like cancer and other diseases. The physical, mental and emotional health benefits of time spent in nature have been corroborated by researchers in North America, the U.K., Europe, China and South Korea.

I believed it. I felt it.

As our walk came to an end, we gathered in a clearing to enjoy a tea ceremony, and one of our group read the very appropriate poem, Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver.

You can start your own forest bathing practice in your own adopted “wild home,” encompassed in three steps:

1. Disengagement from your daily routine
2. Deep breathing and nature connection through a series of quiet activities or “invitations”
3. Transitioning back to your daily life

This restorative activity can be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities: children, teenagers, and even senior citizens with limited mobility and people recovering from illness and surgery. And you don’t need to travel to the Japanese alps to experience the benefits of forest bathing. All you need is a small patch of untouched (or lightly touched) nature to adopt as your “wild home.”

 


Forest Bathing 101: An Interview with Melanie Choukas-Bradley

Have you heard of the term forest bathing?

If you’re like me, you may have heard about it, or even read a few articles about forest bathing in Japan and some of it’s incredible health benefits.  But it wasn’t until I met Melanie Choukas-Bradley that I really understood it.  Melanie has just finished the book, The Joy of Forest Bathing: Reconnect with Wild Places and Rejuvenate Your Life, where shares the science of forest bathing, also the practical ways we can it into our life.  It is a lovely book and a perfect gift by the way!  The illustrations are beautiful.  I recently got the chance to have coffee with Melanie and ask her some of my burning questions about her background and this practice.

Leigh Stringer:  When you are at a dinner party, how do you describe what you do?

Melanie Choukas-Bradley:  I always lead with the fact that I write nature books. Years ago this would elicit glazed eyes, but people are much more receptive to careers that are connected with nature these days! If I meet with a receptive response, I may go on to describe the tree tours, nature trips and forest bathing walks I lead in the Washington, DC area and, increasingly, farther afield.

LS:  You probably know more about the trees in Washington DC than any other person on the planet.  Why are the trees in DC so special and how did you develop this expertise?

MCB:  The trees of Washington are special for many reasons. We are located in the fall zone between the Coastal Plain and Piedmont and midway between North and South. This gives us natural botanical diversity. Then you add to the natural flora all the favorite trees people have brought from far-flung parts of the country and the world. When George Washington and Pierre L’Enfant planned the capital, they incorporated green spaces and trees into the original plan and this legacy still serves us well today. I came to Washington as a young woman when my husband entered Georgetown Law School. I had been the news director for a radio station in New Hampshire and thought I’d sail into my dream job here in Washington. During my lengthy job search I fell in love with the trees and my life began to take a different turn. We were living on Capitol Hill and those were the days when you could thumb through a physical card catalog at the Library of Congress and request books that would be delivered to the historic main reading room. While my outdoor explorations were focused on the magnificent trees of Capitol Hill, my library research began teaching me that the trees of Washington had many stories to tell. I  discovered that Washington had been known for many decades as the “City of Trees” and that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were serious tree lovers. I don’t consider myself any kind of an expert. I simply wanted to learn everything I could about the trees of Washington and this led me down almost every street and avenue and to experts at the National Arboretum, National Park Service, Smithsonian and the City who were incredibly generous with their time and knowledge.

(I recently read Melanie’s book, City of Trees: The Complete Field Guide to the Trees of Washington DC, now in it’s third edition.  If you’re from the area or a frequent visitor, it’s a fantastic guide if you want to know more about DC’s amazing tree history and tree diversity).

LS:  How would you describe forest bathing to the novice?  I mean, how is it different than just taking a nice hike through the woods?

MCB:  It’s all about pace and awareness. On a forest bathing walk you slow way down, breathe deeply, and tune into your surroundings with all your senses. It’s a very immersive experience and it’s hard to describe what makes it so special. When you grow quiet and open your heart, mind and five senses to all that’s around you, it’s extremely restorative. Your “to do” list and the day’s headlines simply cease to exist when you’re on forest bathing time. I have a hard time meditating in a room but nature helps me to achieve peace and serenity.

LS:  What are the health benefits to forest bathing?

MCB:  Health research conducted in Asia, Europe, and North America has revealed many mental, physical and emotional benefits derived from quiet time spent in nature. The research shows that forest bathing lowers your blood pressure and cortisol (stress hormone) levels, lowers your pulse, increases heart rate variability (a good thing), and improves mood. I participated in some of the Japanese health research during a forest bathing trip to Japan last fall, both in the field, where my vital signs were checked before and after each forest bathing walk, and in Dr. Miyazaki’s lab at Chiba University. Dr. Miyazaki and Dr. Li are pioneers in the field of forest bathing health research. Dr. Li is studying how phytoncides, volatile compounds emitted by plants to protect themselves from pathogens, have a positive effect on human health as well.

Melanie on a forest bathing walk in Okutama, wearing a booklet recording her vital signs before and after forest bathing walks in Japan.

LS:  Are there benefits to sneaking in “mini baths” during the workday?  How would that work?

MCB:  Even if you have just 15 or 20 minutes to spare, there are enormous benefits associated with a “mini bath.” If you can find a quiet spot in a small park, a garden, or under a tree near your office, put your phone in airplane mode (I call it “forest bathing mode”), get settled and take a few deep belly breaths. Once you feel yourself letting go of the cares of the day and growing calmer, focus your senses on your surroundings. Notice what’s in motion; tune in to sound, both birdsong and city sounds; smell the earth and the plants around you; take off your shoes if you can, and bury your feet in the grass.

LS:  There are several great books about forest bathing out there.  What are some of them and how is your book unique?

MCB:  I recommend Florence Williams’s book, The Nature Fixas well as books on forest bathing by Dr. Li, Dr. Miyazaki and Amos Clifford, the founder of the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs (from which I received certification as a nature and forest therapy guide).

What’s unique about my book?  I take you through the three major steps of a forest bathing walk and describe ways to forest bathe in each of the four seasons. As a naturalist, I’m able to go into some depth with creative ideas for connecting with nature as the weather changes. I describe ways that you can adopt a “wild home” and forest bathe near where you live and work even if your time is limited. I discuss forest bathing for all ages and suggest ways you can combine forest bathing with other outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, paddling, yoga, tai chi, meditation and nature journaling.

With shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) guides Akira and Kouriki in the Japanese Alps.

Melanie with shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) guides Akira and Kouriki in the Japanese Alps

LS:  Where can people learn more about your books, your forest bathing walks and retreats or just generally connect with you?

MCB:  My website address is www.melaniechoukas-bradley.com. I will be posting fall events in early September on my website calendar. Upcoming book talks/signings for The Joy of Forest Bathing: September 25th—Chevy Chase, MD Library; September 26th—Politics & Prose, Union Market; October 23rd—Audubon Naturalist Society, Woodend Mansion, Chevy Chase, MD.  I have several forest bathing walks scheduled for this fall.

Photograph of Leigh Stringer

Leigh Stringer is a workplace strategy expert and researcher.  She works for EYP, an architecture and engineering firm and is the author of The Healthy Workplace: How to Improve the Well-Being of Your Employees—and Boost Your Company’s Bottom Line.


Rock Creek Community Spotlight: Melanie Choukas-Bradley

An Interview by Kate Arion

Rock Creek Conservancy Apr 24

Our mission is to restore Rock Creek and its parklands as a natural oasis for all people to appreciate and protect. #LoveRockCreek

Sunday was Earth Day, but at Rock Creek Conservancy we celebrate all month long!

For April’s Community Spotlight, I connected with local naturalist and author, Conservancy volunteer, and personal friend Melanie Choukas-Bradley. I had attended her outdoor walks in the past, and I knew she had written several books about the nature here in the backyard of our nation’s capital. But I wanted to find out more about Melanie’s love of nature, where it comes from, and how she shares her passion with others in the DC area.

Who are you in a snapshot?

“I’m a writer and naturalist who loves nothing more than sharing my love and appreciation for nature. I’m lucky to have a husband and two adult children who share my love of nature and spending time in the woods walking, hiking and just quietly enjoying our surroundings! I’m also blessed with many nature-loving friends and extended family. I have written several books about nature?—?with another one forthcoming?—?and I lead many nature trips for local non-profits, including Rock Creek Conservancy.”

What inspired you to become a naturalist? Where did your love of nature first start?

“I grew up in Vermont wandering through the woods and fields as a young child. In the spring my sister, brother and I explored the woods as the snow was melting, searching for hepaticas, spring beauties, trout-lilies, Dutchman’s breeches, trilliums and Jack-in-the-pulpits. We stole icy maple sap from the buckets lining our dirt road. Our dad, a lifelong birder, taught us how to recognize the songs of the towhee, ovenbird, and white-throated sparrow, and our mom shared her love of the beauty of Vermont whenever we were walking or driving through the countryside together. When I moved to Washington, DC with my husband 40 years ago, I fell in love with the city’s trees and felt inspired to write a book about them. Mainly I just wanted to know what all these new trees were, and at the time there were no books that could help me sort them out! Writing City of Trees when I was in my twenties set me on a path to write about nature and become a naturalist.”

How did you get involved with Rock Creek Conservancy?

“I began supporting the work of Rock Creek Conservancy even before the organization was known by that name. I live in the Rock Creek watershed and I learned about the work of the Conservancy when it was known as FORCE (Friends of Rock Creek’s Environment). My friend Steve Dryden introduced me to the early work of the organization, and he and I actually canoed under the Beltway together in 2007 to see what it was like. I had been assigned an article for Bethesda Magazine that asked me to explore the 22 miles of the creek’s main stem from its source in Laytonsville to the District line. (Bethesda Magazine?—?September/October 2008?—?“A Creek Runs Through It.”) It was a real adventure! When I interviewed a group of historians while conducting research for the article, they told me that Native American tribes didn’t even consider the creek navigable as far north as today’s Beltway. I have enjoyed leading walks and giving talks for Rock Creek Conservancy for many years. I am in awe of the work the Conservancy does, and I silently thank its staff and volunteers every time I visit the creek and marvel over the lack of trash. I’m especially grateful for all the work and progress tackling the problems of invasive plants and stormwater runoff and engaging young people in the work to protect and enhance the health of the watershed. I think the thing I’m most grateful for is the way Rock Creek Conservancy expresses its deep love for this amazing treasure in our midst?—?the Rock Creek stream valley!”


“A Year in Rock Creek Park” guides readers through the urban wilderness that is Rock Creek Park.

You have written several books about the plants and nature in the DC region. One of them is called, A Year in Rock Creek Park: The Wild, Wooded Heart of Washington, DC. What made you want to write this book, and what was it like writing about this year-long exploration?

“Rock Creek Park is my refuge. I am a country person by nature and background, and I couldn’t happily live in such a densely populated area if it weren’t for Rock Creek Park. Spending time in Rock Creek Park keeps me happy and sane. In 2007 I had a sudden desire to share my love of the park and all the moments that bring me joy when I’m walking along the creek and in the upland woods. I was also inspired by my concerns about climate change, the spread of invasive plants, and the problems associated with stormwater runoff?—?all things threatening Rock Creek. Once I started writing the book, the words just flowed. As soon as I got home from the park I couldn’t wait to record my experiences. The book is much more personal than my three previous books, and this was both rewarding and a little scary for me. The book was published in 2014 in both a paperback and hard-backed, slip-cased limited edition with gorgeous photographs by Susan Austin Roth.”

Tree huggers on a forest bathing walk that Melanie hosted with Rock Creek Conservancy this past fall.

You’re a pretty well-known naturalist here in the DC area. Your nature walks are practically famous! But you’ve recently started doing this thing called “forest bathing.” What’s that?

“Forest bathing, or Shinrin-yoku, started in Japan in the 1980s, and it’s rooted in the ancient Japanese reverence for nature. Forest bathing is simply slowing down, breathing deeply, and fully immersing yourself in the beauty and wonder of nature. It has become very popular around the world, thanks in part to the number of health studies that have shown the physical, mental, and emotional health benefits of time spent in nature. In 2016 I became a nature and forest therapy guide (trained and certified by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs based in Santa Rosa, CA). Last fall I visited Japan and traveled throughout the country with a small group of North American guides, participating in walks led by Japanese Shinrin-yoku guides. It has been my great joy to lead forest bathing walks for Rock Creek Conservancy, with the next one scheduled for Wednesday, May 16th (location and registration details forthcoming). In September, my new book, The Joy of Forest Bathing, will be published by the Rock Point imprint of Quarto; it is now available for pre-order from Amazon.comand from booksellers around the world.”

What are your hopes and dreams for Rock Creek and its parklands?

I am happy to say that my hopes for Rock Creek Park are already coming true today. I hope for a wild place that people cherish and protect because they love it deeply. That is here today!

As for my dreams, I dream we will continue to have better water quality, which will involve the hard work and dedication of all of us. A swimmable Rock Creek? A drinkable creek? When I was on Yakushima Island in Japan, we knelt down and drank directly from the streams. Could we ever drink from Rock Creek?

As John Lennon sang in Imagine: ‘You may say I’m a dreamer…but I’m not the only one.’


We all dream of a pristine, clean Rock Creek. And every day, Rock Creek Conservancy and our force of thousands of volunteers work toward reaching that goal. If you would like to volunteer with the Conservancy, please email volunteer@rockcreekconservancy.org, or visit our website to learn more about available volunteer opportunities.



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Rock Creek Conservancy

Our mission is to restore Rock Creek and its parklands as a natural oasis for all people to appreciate and protect. #LoveRockCreek



Need a Break? Try Forest Bathing. (We’ll Explain.)

Do you suffer from NDD? If so, you’re not alone.
In a world where a growing majority of the global population lives in cities
and the average American spends 93 percent of their time indoors, many of us are at…


Do you suffer from NDD? If so, you’re not alone. In a world where a growing majority of the global population lives in cities and the average American spends 93 percent of their time indoors, many of us are at risk of ‘nature-deficit disorder.’ While NDD isn’t a formal diagnosis, studies show that humans just aren’t meant to spend most of our day inside—after all, 99.9 percent of our evolutionary history was in natural environments. So how do we get back to our roots (literally) and reconnect with nature? Enter: Forest bathing.

It may sound like a trendy spa treatment, but forest bathing is rooted in ancient tradition. Known as shinrin-yoku in Japanese (“shinrin” means “forest” and “yoku” means “bath”), forest bathing is the practice of immersing yourself in nature by mindfully using all five senses. This practice benefits your body and your mind: Studies show that frequent forest bathing reduces the stress hormone cortisollowers blood pressure, and even gives your immune system a boost.

“The whole idea is that you really slow down,” says Melanie Choukas-Bradley, a certified forest therapy guide whose book The Joy of Forest Bathing will be published this fall. “You breathe deeply, take in the sights and sounds, listen to the birds, taken in the fragrances, and just relax.” Here are Choukas-Bradley’s four tips for getting started:

Start Small

    “In Japan, some people go for a whole weekend,” says Choukas-Bradley. But if you aren’t ready to commit to an entire weekend in the woods, start with your lunch break: A study published in Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine tested people at two dozen different forest sites and found that after just 20 minutes of walking in nature, participants’ cortisol levels (the body’s “stress hormone”) were 15.8 percent lower than that of people in urban settings.

Get (Dis)connected

    To get the health benefits of forest bathing, you have to truly connect with nature—which means leaving your headphones behind and unplugging from your phone completely. “I think of the airplane mode on my phone as ‘forest bathing mode’,” says Choukas-Bradley. Considering that, on average, we spend upwards of nine hours a day staring at screens, most of the people who sign up for her forest bathing walks are all too happy to follow her lead. In fact, Choukas-Bradley says, “What I find on my walks is that people don’t want to go back to having their phones on!”

Become a Regular

    The more often you do forest bathing, the more health benefits you get. Find a place nearby that you can return to as often as possible. “I recommend that people find a place near where they live,” adds Choukas-Bradley, who regularly leads walks at the National Arboretum and other Washington, D.C., area parks and forests. (For a certified guide in your area, check the locator map on the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides website.) It can even be your own backyard. “Find a space near where you live and think of it as your ‘wild home’,” she says.

Invite in Inspiration

    Choukas-Bradley always starts her walks with a quote by John Muir. “Another glorious day / the air as delicious to the lungs as nectar to the tongue” is her favorite. Say the quote to yourself a few times while breathing deeply. On her guided walks, she will give guests periodic invitations, such as “Enjoy the pleasures of presence,” and “Notice what’s in motion.” During that time, she encourages people to tune into the sounds, smells, and sights around them, for example, “You may close your eyes. Take turns focusing on different senses.” This exercise transforms a passive experience to an active one and “you begin to connect with the nature around you,” she says.

Hannah Wallace is a Portland-based journalist and editor who writes about integrative medicine, sustainable agriculture, and wine for Food & Wine, Vogue, Fast Company, and other publications. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram at @Hannahmw23.

Posted by Hannah Wallace on May 29, 2018 in: Cup of Calm


While many of us enjoy hiking or running in Rock Creek Park,
we generally do not take the time to notice all the gifts of nature.
Forest bathing encourages you to connect with the Earth through all of your senses:
we looked at the autumn foliage and the sunlight dappled on the forest floor;
we heard the leaves rustling, sounding eerily similar to a burbling brook.

Read more here of this article written by Kate Arion for The Rock Creek Conservancy.



Image by Korrin Bishop

With the leaves, flowers, and birds of the park as her pen,
Melanie captures a compellingly relatable narrative on women’s empowerment,
climate change, life with Lyme disease, the nuanced tugs of family, career, and wildness,
and how to find connection in a bustling city center.

Read more of Korrin Bishop's story here. You may need to scroll down to see the article.


We Had a Wheelie Great Time on our Tree Tour by Bike

Last weekend Casey Trees volunteers, members, bikers, and tree enthusiasts joined us for a tree tour on wheels to our nation’s Capitol. Nearly thirty bikers in neon vests hit the road to learn more about the trees planted on the Capitol grounds. Read about the tour here.

 


Teddy Roosevelt's Mar-a Lago

We set off walking in the footsteps of our 26th President along the Theodore Roosevelt Side Trail. While on the trail I was reminded of Teddy’s love for the outdoors. His favorite resort was Rock Creek Park, and he frequently led members of his “Tennis Cabinet” and foreign ambassadors on grueling hikes here. To be invited by the President to go on one of those hikes was regarded as a mark of special favor. Read more here.


Closely Observed Trees - Takoma Voice

"And so, on a bright, brisk Saturday morning in early December, a small group of us gathered in Rock Creek Park at Boundary Bridge. After a quick review of history and maps, we set off, first through the floodplain forest by the creek, later to return on the higher elevations of the Western Trail Ridge via Riley Spring Bridge. We were, Melanie announced, going to take a very close look at trees."

Read more of Linda Pentz Gunter's article on this special trip in the Takoma Voice.

Rachel Carson 75th Anniversary Jubilee Celebration

We celebrated the 75th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s historic arrival on the American environmental and literary scene with her beloved first book, Under the Sea-Wind. We heard and met leading authors, environmental leaders, and members of Congress at the Rachel Carson Council’s all-day, one-of-a-kind event on Wednesday, November 30, 2016, on Capitol Hill. See more details here.

Confidence is Key

Nature Walk with Melanie Choukas-Bradley

"If you want to enjoy an informative, fun nature walk in the D.C. area,
you have to go on one with Melanie Choukas-Bradley."

Check out Kathryn Arion's descriptive blog here.


The Benefits of Forest Bathing

“Forest bathing is slowing down and connecting with nature with all your senses and it’s something you can do very close to home,” says Melanie, in an interview with Alexa Mergen, writing for mylittlebird - The Grownup Girl's Guide to D.C. Living.

Find out more about forest bathing here.



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