Almost accidentally, I started a project curating voices and stories of nature connection and meaning via the medium of Instagram Live!
Titled "What Does Nature Mean to You?" and asking each person 3 key questions, I've enjoyed some wonderful conversations with conservationists, authors, writers, artists, therapists, chefs, coaches, adventurers, well-being practitioners and more, from the UK and further afield such as the USA and India. Conversations full of inspiration and common themes, each told in their own way.
It's been nourishing and grounding, during our second lockdown here in the UK, to be connecting to other humans whilst reminding ourselves of the important of connecting to nature in various ways and paths.
I've yet to work out what I'll do with this beautiful collection of voices, yet to see where this chorus leads me... but in the meantime you can catch up on the conversations over on Youtube or at @forestcloudsnaturetherapy on Instagram.
With a huge thanks to Tommy at Mindful Walks in Wales connecting to me Jane Dunford at the Guardian, I was lucky enough to be listed in the Observer magazine article "20 outdoor adventures for autumn".
A wonderful opportunity, that has now lead to quite a few email enquiries so please do forgive me if I am a little slower to reply to you this week!
I’m definitely not always calm and “zen” like, as sometimes people ask me... not at all. In fact often quite the opposite, which is why I’m lucky I know what helps me and what tactics might give me some breathing room to find that headspace to invite calm in if only for a moment.
I’m very grateful to have learnt that time spent in nature and particularly doing forest bathing & mindful activities can help soothe my busy mind and stressed out body. I don’t always do it, I don’t always make time for it, but I’m getting better at forgiving myself and sending myself compassion and kindness... then inviting myself to do the things that help when things get tough. Day by day, it’s all we can do don’t you think?
I'm really excited to be bringing you my next 4 week long nature experience ... cultivating connection and compassion.
£90 per person
Payment can be made via paypal or bank transfer
ONLY 5 SPACES AVAILABLE
Nature sessions will be 5.30pm - 7.30pm: Mon 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th Sept in Leigh On Sea
Contact me for more information and to book your place
Week 1 - we'll look at introductions to the practice and each other, before exploring grounding with and connecting to nature through the senses, with a focus on sound
Week 2. - diving further into grounding in nature, exploring touch and vision using practices including forest art creation
Week 3 - continuing our journey, working together with the trees, and exploring words, stories, poetry & haiku as a way to connect and express
Week 4 - exploring smells, exploring energy and our relationships to nature whilst looking at compassion practices, and ending with a final tea ceremony
Every day throughout the course you will receive daily emails with invites and suggestions for your daily practice, including some short recordings of meditation practices.
It's been a while since I've update my blog, I confess to not really using it and instead using Instagram and Facebook for updates. However I wanted to pop on here and update you on the measures I am taking in order to support participants to feel safe on sessions during the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Whilst all sessions are outdoors and therefore relatively easy to maintain social distancing guidelines it is important that as a guide I stay up to date with current advice, and do my best to let you know what things will look like.
- For now all group sessions will have no more than 5 participants, with me guiding that makes a maximum of 6 people at an event.
- I will include in my introduction a health & safety talk that sets out social distancing of 2m between every one, ensuring we all know what that looks like.
- We will agree a simple safe signal we can all use to signal if we need more space, although being outside it is easy just to take a step back and take space, but that said it is important we agree a common language to handle any worries at the beginning of the session.
- I'll also carry hand sanitiser with me at all times should anyone require it.
- Invitations and exercises will all be solo activities, no pair or partner work.
- The final tea ceremony will also be simplified, with clients asked to bring their own cups should they wish to participate.
- We won't be sharing any equipment, and all activities will remain optional and therefore clients can judge their own comfort levels and choices too.
- I'm also offering private group and one-to-one sessions if that feels more suitable to you.
- I've updated my risk assessments, and ensured to have studied the latest Covid Awareness Course as advised for Holistic Therapists and Practitioners. I'll endeavour to keep up to date with latest guidelines and measures to be taken.
- You are very welcome to message me with any questions or queries regarding the above or any other concerns.
Digital Detox Amongst the Trees
Why Forest Bathing is the
Perfect Digital Detox
Most of us now know that we need to spend less time on our Smartphones and Tablets. It is similar to the recommendations of 5 portions of fruit and veg a day, 150 minutes of exercise a week and 7 hours or more of sleep, and it can be hard to get into the habit of a healthier and more rewarding lifestyle. However, you may not be aware that you should also add at least 2 hours in nature per week to this list and there is a growing body of scientific research to support it.
In this blog article I would like to take you on a short Digital Detox journey to discover a few surprises about our brains, explain some of the reasons why we might be spending too much time on our digital devices, and to remind you how amazing real life can be by taking part in ‘unplugged’ activities such as Forest Bathing, which will reward you with a much deeper and richer experience. I will also share my experiences of my first Forest Bathing event with Forest Clouds Nature Therapy.
Let’s talk about the brain
When is now? In the excellent book ‘The Brain, A User’s Guide’ 2 (2018), the New Scientist details some amazing facts about our brains. As adults we think that we become conscious of events as they happen, and that’s certainly how it feels, but we are wrong! Our conscious experience lives in the past and lags behind the outside world by about 250 to 300mS. Our vision, hearing and other senses are all processed at different speeds, but our conscious perception of how we see the world around us is fully synchronised. Our digitally connected world operates and distracts us at a much faster speed than our consciousness, and so it’s easy to experience the stress of information overload.
How much are we conscious of? According to the fascinating book ‘Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence’ 3, (2017), Max Tegmark states that roughly 10 million bits of information enter our brain from our senses each second, but we are only ever consciously aware of a tiny fraction, 10 to 50 bits. So, what we see and experience is not all that there is!
Our conscious can be thought of as the CEO of our mind, dealing with only the important decisions demanding immediate attention or complex analysis of data. It’s easy to see why we don’t notice things when we are lost in our Smartphones and Tablets, even when they are right in front of us.
How many senses do we have? If like me, you immediately and confidently thought of five, then you might be surprised to learn that you are wrong!
It’s an example of the ‘illusion of knowledge’, whereby we think that we know something, but in reality we don’t. In this case we may have been taught that we have 5 senses at school and have never thought to question it.
In ‘The Brain, A User’s Guide’ 2, (2018), the New Scientist tells us that we have between 22 and 33 senses.
So, what are these senses?
The five that we probably thought off are in fact thirteen.
Why do we spend so much time on our Smartphones and Tablets?
For the most of us being online, whether on our Smartphones, Tablets or other devices is essential to live and work in our modern digitally connected world. This could be using technology for tasks that make our lives easier, more efficient or rewarding at home or at work, connecting with our friends and family. They are also invaluable for news, shopping, education, health and fitness, entertainment and much more.
The problem is that if we are constantly engaged or distracted by our Smartphones and Tablets, we become unresponsive and withdrawn to those around us. In particular there are studies that show that unresponsive parents can cause very young children to become confused and distressed. But we also miss out on many real world activities, and this impacts the quality of our human interactions, relationships and our health and wellbeing.
Here are a few of the reasons why this happens:
In June 2019 the Guardian reported that a two-hour dose of nature per week significantly boosts health and wellbeing, even if you simply sit and enjoy the peace. The research, published in the Journal of Scientific Reports by Dr Mathew White, an environmental phycologist at the University of Exeter Medical School, used data from a Natural England survey, this is the world’s largest study collecting data on people’s weekly contact with the natural world. However, it did not include time people spent in their gardens. Although the study did not investigate why being in nature was so beneficial, it suggested that a sense of tranquillity and having time to think could be part of the reason. Interestingly they also found that stress reduction is increased if you are in a location of outstanding natural beauty and biodiversity.
In the best-selling book ‘Drunk Tank Pink – The Subconscious Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel and Behave’ Adam Alter refers to Attention Restoration Theory (ART) and says that ‘Nature restores your mental functioning in the same way that food and water restore your body’. Urban man-made environments can deplete us by demanding our attention and bombarding us with stimulation, whereas natural environments demand very little from us and give us time to think as much or as little as we like, and thereby rest our mental resources.
My Experience of Forest Bathing
It’s easy to forget just how amazing our experiences in the real and natural world can be. One of the best ways to Digital Detox is to undertake ‘unplugged’ activities that focus our attention on our senses, relax our minds and give us time to think. In July I had the pleasure of my first Forest Bathing event guided by Ruth from Forest Clouds Nature Therapy. It was located in the woods at Hanningfield Reservoir Nature Reserve and was in support of the Essex Wildlife Trust. Earlier in the year I had taken part in the Water Aid Hanningfield triathlon and had run through the woods we were about to explore.
A key part of Digital Detox training is to replace the superficial distractions and addiction of our Smartphones and Tablets with an activity that helps us engage with our humanity. So, this was an excellent way to take a Digital Detox. I really enjoyed my first Forest Bathing experience. The company was great, and Ruth's invitations and suggestions helped us to reconnect with our senses and acted as our pathway back to nature. What struck me was that it’s only when we are free from our digital devices that we have time and space to really think and appreciate the amazing richness of the natural world around us.
Top ten Digital Detox tips
Here are my top ten tips for taking back control:
Tip 1: Embrace as many real world activities that will benefit your health and wellbeing as possible, such as Forest Bathing. When we are focussed on an activity, we are less likely to be distracted.
Tip 2: Make sleep a priority. You’re worth it and not much good to anyone else if you don’t. Prepare yourself for sleep by acknowledging its importance and letting go of all the events of the day. If it helps, write down all the things you believe you need to remember for the next day on a piece of paper, so that you can forget about them until the morning.
Tip 3: Switch your Smartphones and Tablets off and put them away completely out of sight, preferably in another room, at least thirty minutes before lights out. This is essential if you want to get to sleep as the blue light emitted from screens can delay the release of sleep-inducing melatonin. This increases alertness and resets the body’s internal clock (or circadian rhythm) to a later schedule.
Tip 4: Nominate certain rooms in your house or apartment as Digital Detox sanctuaries where Smartphones and Tablets are left outside. If you want to, put a sign up at the entrance and a basket or container to safely store your devices.
Tip 5: Nominate meal times and other family times as ‘Unplugged’ activities.
Tip 6: Establish Digital Detox rules and work together as a household to implement them, but put them somewhere visible, like the fridge.
Tip 7: Get rid of distractions by turning off App notifications.
Tip 8: Decide in advance what times of the day you will give yourself permission to check your Smartphone or Tablet. Write these times down and display them somewhere visible. Give yourself a reward when you are successful.
Tip 9: Think about how you can reduce the amount of media you consume. The media’s reliance on the use of drama and extremes to grab our attention, creates the illusion of constant deterioration and a distorted world view that can create stress for many people5.
Tip 10: Always remember that no one ever ran a marathon having not run before, or having not done any training. Our journey to achieve a better and more sustainable digital/real life balance will take time and require many small steps.
In this blog article I set out to engage your curiosity and explain some of the reasons why we are all spending too much time on our Smartphones and Tablets. I wanted to remind you just how amazing real life and human experiences can be by taking part in ‘unplugged’ activities that will reward you with a much deeper and richer experience, such as Forest Bathing.
Everyone has the potential to make positive changes in their lives, we just have to want to do it and believe we can. Digital Detox is about restoring the balance between our digital and real lives. This means reducing the time we spend on our Smartphones and Tablets, and being in control of when and where we use them, what we do on them, and most importantly how long for. To be successful we need to replace the superficial distractions and addiction of our Smartphones and Tablets with other activities that helps us engage with our humanity
For information on Forest Bathing and Forest Cloud Natural Therapy, go to www.forestcloudsnaturaltherapy.co.uk or follow @forestcloudsnaturaltherapy on Instagram and Facebook
For information, tips and videos on Digital Detox and how to take back control, visit The Digital Detox Coach on Instagram, Facebook or by emailing Colin@TheDigitalDetoxCoach.co.uk. The online course ‘Digital Detox – Taking back control’ is available from www.technologyacceleration.co.uk
Colin Corby is a Director and Founder at Technology Wellbeing Ltd, a company that focuses on the collision between technology and behavioural psychology to understand how this is changing the way that we think, feel and behave. By understanding the impact that our technological world has on us, businesses and individuals are better able to focus on their own goals, be more productive, creative and to see many more possibilities.
At the end of July, I got to hang out with Nikki and her team at Soul Food Kitchen on Southend's local radio Ship Full of Bombs. We talked about the great outdoors, fear of bugs, lightning and the wonder of green spaces with Marc Outten, nature expert. Listen back here.
In June, Essex Live kindly wrote an article about my journey and forest bathing in Essex.
Read it here.
Back in June, I was grateful to be invited back to Phoenix FM to chat with Michelle about forest bathing.
Listen to highlights here.