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  • Writer's pictureKelly Marks

Out of Doors

There are many ways, both good and bad, to know you live in the South; one of them occurred yesterday morning. I was sitting at the kitchen table, drinking my 1st cup of coffee while reading, and writing, when a friend texted. It read, “Have you been outside? OMG!!! It feels AMAZING out! No humidity!!! Get outside!!!.”

(That is a literal transcription, including the ALL CAPS and the copious, but well-deserved exuberant punctuation.)

Naturally, I grabbed my coffee and went outdoors. I pulled a chair under the shade of the pin oak tree, and I sat and soaked up the sights and sounds of nature. I saw the industrious ants always busy with something. I heard the birds singing, saw a few squirrels frolicking; I even watched some of those gross black caterpillars crawling along.

I used to be outside a lot. When Madi was little, we would sit in the grass beside the chimney and look for four leaf clovers. We actually found so many that I always said if we were rich enough to name our “estate,“ we would call it Lucky Corners. Of course if we were rich enough to give a name to our house, maybe we would call it something more pretentious than that. Perhaps Felicitous Vertices?

But life gets busy. We have to go to work and school. We have obligations that carry us here and there. When we do have the time to go outside, it’s just so much easier to sit in the air conditioning or the heated space, and read or watch TV.

When Covid hit, anxiety and mental illness escalated precipitously, and people stayed inside more. People were online via social media and zoom calls more and more often. Some were in front of screens to stay in touch and some were there as we transitioned to work and school online. There was an article that talked about how healing it is to be outside, and yet kids were spending 4 to 7 minutes per day outside and 7.5 hours on media.

I find it odd that when it comes to our health, we know how many carbs we need vs. how many we eat, how much sugar too. We’re aware of how many times per week we need to exercise and for how long, and yet most people, myself included, never really consider how much time we should try to be outside or maybe even that we NEED to be outside at all.

The path to wellness seems to be filled with dastardly words: discipline, sweat, sacrifice, cardio, pain, diet. Awful. And then I came across Forest Bathing. This piqued my interest so I read up on it. It’s from the Japanese. Back in the 80s, they noticed a rise in depression, anxiety and burn out. People returned to nature to enable them to slow down and relax. By simply walking outside and being aware of the nature surrounding you, your parasympathetic nervous system is activated; that is what produces the feel-good hormones in our body that aid in healing.

All of that sounded pretty straightforward and to be honest a whole lot better than going for a jog. I decided to get outside again later in the afternoon. Really boost that healing quality. While I was outside, being one with nature, I noticed the grass needed to be mowed. Hey, I thought, I can get some exercise while I’m outside. By the end I was sweating profusely, frustrated beyond all belief at our less than reliable mower. There’s a distinct possibility I might have been doing forest bathing thing all wrong.

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