I generally don't eat too much on Thanksgiving (even though I very much like food and very much like my mother's oyster stuffing), but at some point I'll take a walk today, just because it seems like the right thing to do. Many of us will do this. Some will charge up a hill, or speed-step around a lake, making sure they've burned enough calories to make up for the later feast. Some will take a full-bellied, slow walk around after the meal, just trying to make enough room in the abdomen to breathe - or maybe room for more pie. Nothing wrong with either of these methods, but I'd like to suggest a little something different this Thanksgiving. How about a forest bath?
Have you heard about forest baths? This is a fairly new trend. I recently read about it on the NPR website. There are certified guides who take you on a forest experience. It's not about exercise exactly, though that's a nice side effect; it's about being mindful and in clear awareness of what's going on around you. Letting all of your senses fill with the forest. Looking for the little things, the treasures you often find on a walk - a striped acorn, or a birds-nest mushroom, or a woodpecker pattern in a tree trunk. Listening to the sounds of the forest, hearing a hawk call overhead, or a chickadee in the oak next to you, or the rustle of a lizard near your feet. Smelling the dryness of the leaves, the wet rot underneath, the salt of a coastline, the bark of a Ponderosa pine (vanilla!). Rubbing a smooth stone or a rough leaf with your fingertips.
I think it's great that there are certified guides that can take you through this process and remind you to be mindful, but I honestly don't think you need to pay anyone to teach you how to do this. It takes some practice, sure, but that's a task easily set and easily accomplished - just let yourself wander. It can even be on your regular trail. Maybe there's something you've been missing all these years, walking along a well-known path. You could even do this in your neighborhood or in your own yard.
For some folks, today is a very stressful day, filled with family that you might not enjoy talking with, or with whom you have heated arguments. I think this is probably happening more and more in the tense political climate we live in. Well, what better time than now to get out and do some deep breathing? This kind of walking, in a mindful way, is scientifically documented to lower your blood pressure by up to 40 points. Charging up a hill is great for your heart in one way, yes, but it turns out that slowing down and tuning in to your environment is also extremely good for your health. So if you aren't exactly thrilled to go climb a mountain, or you can't get motivated to do that, perhaps it'll be easier to motivate yourself just to get outside and notice things.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope you eat lots of lovely food, spend lots of time with your favorite people, and get a chance to wander in nature.