The Simplest Cure: GET OUTSIDE
Lots of things stuck with me about The Imitation Game, one of this year’s Oscar nominees –the complexity of war, the levels of injustice people in the world have faced, the universal need to belong, the immense contribution Alan Turing made to science and to the world, and his running. Yes, his solo races through lush, green fields – heart pounding, sweat pouring, breathing labored – were indeed among the most memorable scenes in the movie for me. They represented the raw emotion…the release…the brief respite that we viewers so desperately wanted Alan to find.
The running scenes evoked one of the truths that bind humans and our natural word together: nature has immense healing power. The Japanese even have a name for it – shinrin yoku, or “forest bathing” (short visits to forests designed to promote health). For centuries, philosophers, scientists, writers, and spiritual teachers have found refuge, renewal, connection, and sustenance in nature. Just as Alan did, and just as I do.
In the midst of “one of those days” today, I abandoned my computer screen for a quick 5-mile run in the sunshine. My mind quickly and predictably released, as my focus shifted to the neighborhood kids gleefully slipping down the slide, the elderly woman practicing tai chi in the park, and the mailman finishing his shift with a warm smile on his face. The sun’s gentle rays warmed my body, and the wintery blue sky made my worries feel smaller. As my feet sprang on and off the ground, my body felt more anchored to the world around me.
We’re all spending less and less time outside these days. The most recent comparison I could find in a cursory search was from 2008, when a study found that the typical American was spending 25% less time in nature than in 1987. My hunch is this downward trend hasn’t reversed since then, despite the Technorati returning to summer camp in an effort to unplug from the “always on” reality of daily life.
If, like mine, your personal time outside has trended down in the last few years, maybe it’s time to get creative about how you can re-build your connection with nature. Prescribe yourself some park time, just as this doctor prescribes for his patients. Bundle up and bike next time you have an errand within a few miles. Follow your kids’ leads, even if it means you’re stuck playing hours of four square. Do a walking meeting. If you’re living in the a winter wonderland (or something like that), discover the beauty of winter hiking.
And next time you’re having “one of those days,” remember that nature is powerful medicine, and GO OUTSIDE. A little bit of fresh air can go a long way. Just like it did for Alan Turing.