Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bathing in Unusual Water ..

Much of my six years in the Yukon was spent in the forest. Until recently, I didn't quite know how that time was affecting me.
I came across a piece of research last week (which was also featured at the OAND conference that I attended this weekend) examining the physiological effects of "Forest Bathing". This non-scientific term for arbour exposure was coined as a result of a poetic translation of "Shinrin-yoku" from Japanese to English - and, frankly, I think it's a charming description!
The study was conducted a few times; first on men, then on women with consistent results. The female study was conducted on 13 healthy nurses between the ages of 25-43. After giving blood and urine to assess a baseline, the subjects underwent a three-day/two-night trip to the forest (not a bad study to be involved in)! On the first day, the women walked for two hours in the afternoon through the forest. On the second day, the women walked for two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon in two separate forests (a blood draw and urine test was taken after day two). On the third day, after giving blood and urine a third time, the women returned to the city (Tokyo).
When the forest bathing blood samples were compared to baseline samples significant changes were found: forest bathing increased NK activity and the number of NK, perforin, granulysin, and granzymes A/B-expressing cells. In addition, there was a decreased concentration of adrenaline and noradrenaline in urine.
What does all this mean exactly? Well, the bottom line is that the urine analysis proved a decrease in overall systemic stress, indicated by a decrease in stress hormone. The increase in serum (blood) immune modulators indicates that the immune system is working more efficiently. The immune modulators listed above are specific to mutated and cancerous cell (tumour) modulation and destruction. So, it happens that when we spend time with the trees, our immune systems function more efficiently specifically inhibiting cellular mutation and cancer growth! The even more awesome observation from this study is that the increased NK activity lasted for more than 7 days after the trip!! It's perfect really: if we can get some tree exposure on our weekends, the benefits will last us the entire work week!
The conclusion of this study postulates that the exposure to phytoncides, detected in forest air (often responsible for the lovely smell of trees - pine, etc), decrease stress. Decreased stress contributes to an upregulated immune function.
Either way, if you don't already cross country ski or snowshoe, this study may be a good reason to embrace a new forested hobby!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Kicked in the Ass

I fell off the earth for a while. In my mysterious plummet, I attracted a beautiful influence into my non-earth that turned my head to show me a vision of how wonderful my life could be.
Sometimes the universe kicks you in the ass and if you're not wearing padding, it really, really hurts. Bruised or not though, if you're able to see past the hurt, there is a transformative process that you are often embarking on without even knowing it. I am in transformation: a powerful place of growth. Challenges are coming which, previously, may have seemed insurmountable. Something has shifted in me that is truly allowing me to see my potential and the potential to create the life I want to live.
I believe I'm on a path constructed by a series of events: the beautiful influence I mentioned earlier was the first obvious catalyst. Following that, the kicks in the ass .. which have led me to a journey called the Artists Way, which I've been wanting to explore since I lived in the Yukon.
The Artists Way is a self directed 12-week modular progression designed to guide the participant to their potential through creative expression. So far, it has led me to a place of seeing creative solutions (instead of getting completely discouraged with my challenges). It has led me to a deeper understanding of what I chosen to define me, what definitions I'd like to let go of and which I'd prefer to be defined by. It has led me to understand that receiving (from others and from the universe) IS acceptable. It has led me to accept where I am with grace and peace. It has led me to see myself and my life as potential instead of a series of limits. I do believe I am ready for this - that said, if you are not ready and embark on this journey anyway, it may not yield the same results!
I am in week #1 with eleven weeks to go! Part of me cannot wait to see what and who I become; the other part of me is really embracing the daily process.
And with this, I give thanks (to the universe or God or light or whatever) for the kicks in the ass that I obviously needed!

For more info, check out the website: