Source: There is Magic in the Forest
Yup, science-based, fact-based magic can be found and experienced in any forest in the world. Anyone who has taken a walk in an autumn forest lately knows it can boost your mood. I love to write about the magic of the power of thought and I back it up with a bit of science to make it real. There are natural, magical forces at work in the forest that are amazing in their complexity if you take a closer look.
There is a certain slant of the sun this time of year that shoots through the leaves and turns them neon and just seeing that beauty begins the magical experience. By seeing that burst of beauty your body reacts by releasing chemical reaction of producing the GABA molecule in the brain. “The Anti-Anxiety Molecule” GABA is an inhibitory molecule that slows down the firing of neurons and creates a sense of calmness”, says Christopher Bergland in Psychology Today.
Surrounding yourself with beauty can bolster your creative flow. Thoreau, Nietzsche and many other creative types have claimed that walking gives wings to the imagination. Last year, psychologists gave this empirical support. Walking, either on a treadmill or around Stanford’s leafy campus, bolstered divergent thinking: the free-roaming, idea-generating component of creative thought.
Once you have taken those first few steps and start to feel calmer, you take a deep breath and inhale scents of pine, birch, eucalyptus, grass, water etc. etc. Now, think about it – when you walk into a spa, what is that amazing scent that wafts over you and draws you into the magic? Yup, pine, birch, eucalyptus, water etc. As we walk through a forest the natural aromatherapy of the forest scents cause us to breathe more deeply, “triggering neurons in your brain which tell the body it is time to relax, a new study has found,” Sarah Knapton, Science editor of The Telegraph says. She goes on to explain:
“Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of California have identified 175 brain cells which spy on the breath and alter the state of mind accordingly. For thousands of years, yoga students have been taught that controlling their breathing can bring a sense of calm, while it is a well-known truism that taking a few deep breaths can lower rage. But until now nobody knew why it worked. The neurons which link breathing to relaxation, attention, excitement and anxiety are located deep in the brainstem.”
After a few minutes of walking your heart rate begins to climb. Oh, the magic of cardio! We all know the benefits of raising our cardio levels but to put it in a nutshell scientifically, recent evidence points to a pleasurable and pain-killing firing of the endocannabinoid system: the psychoactive receptor of cannabis.
One fascinating study randomly assigned a group of 59 men and women to either an aerobics-focused program or a stretching and strength-training program. After 6 months, sophisticated brain scans using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) showed that the aerobically fit adults had significantly more activity in the frontal cortex of the brain, the region associated with executive function (planning and long-term memory storage), as well as the parietal cortex, the seat of spatial orientation — two areas often associated with age-related cognitive decline.
While cardio does increase blood flow to the brain, that’s not the whole reason for aerobics’ impressive effects. Instead, the researchers believe that many of the positive changes could be attributed to an increase in BDNF, the “Miracle-Gro” brain hormone. The brain that enjoys cardiovascular training, the researchers say, is “more efficient, plastic, and adaptive, which translates into better learning and performance.” Not too shabby for a daily walk in the woods.
On a typical walk through the forest, you may take music along, run into a friend and visit for a while, sharing a laugh or two and pull out a chocolate/vanilla health bar to share. Oh, the happiness chemicals are surging!!! According to studies from Readers Digest:
- Listening to music you love triggers joy by unleashing feel-good brain chemicals. “The Bliss Molecule” Endocannabinoids are self-produced cannabis that work on the CB-1 and CB-2 receptors of the cannabinoid system.
- Group exercise has some distinct advantages, according to a recent study. Not only will friends spur you on if you’re flagging, but the shared effort may give your endorphin levels an extra boost. Researchers in 2009 found that college crews who rowed in synchronization had an increased rush of these feel-good hormones compared with those who rowed alone.
- Laughter is sometimes described as ‘inner jogging’. Research has shown that it can help to: • Lower blood pressure. • Reduce stress hormones. • Boost immune function by raising levels of infection-fighting cells. • Trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. • Produce a general sense of wellbeing.
- Chocolate-lovers will be delighted to hear that dark chocolate provides protection against heart attacks and strokes. Thanks to its high content of polyphenols and other antioxidants, dark chocolate reduces inflammation, lowers blood pressure, reduces ιbad᾿ LDL cholesterol, boosts ιgood᾿ HDL cholesterol and protects the health of your arteries. It also contains chemicals that prompt the release of endorphins! Add the benefits of vanilla, which helps reduce anxiety, often associated with depression. According to a study at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, patients undergoing MRIs who breathed vanilla-scented air reported 63 percent less anxiety than those who breathed unscented air.
To me, the science of the functioning body is magical. Every second, the delicate dances of balance, growth and decay are performed with precision. A simple walk in a forest can ingite and excite so many bodily chemical reactions, it is boggling. It is a testament to how we are all connected in our delicate dance of life.
Another magical forest experience I took part in was the Oregon Family Forest Fest. Imagine the fun of having 130 young families with around 200 kids age 0-5 camping, playing, singing and dancing on a magical farm complete with moss-draped West Coast cedars and a babbling brook.
Off we went to the Leaping Lamb Farm for 3 days of a festival like no other. The weather was perfect and the babies slept… all good. 🙂 The Family Forest Fest is in its second year and was definitely not a disappointment! Entertainers, movies, speakers, giant bubbles and dress-up parades were some of the highlights.
Finally, I’d like to introduce you to a phenomenon in Korea, called “Salim yok” and “Shinrin-yoku” in Japan or “Forest Bathing”. The practice of forest bathing is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of well-being. Similar to Finnish traditions, doctors have recognized the numerous health-boosting effects of being in nature. In contemporary times, The Korean Forest Research Institute has found that chemicals from conifers (specifically Torreya Nucifera), phytoncides, are associated with positive health effects. Packaging and proliferating phytoncides in workplaces and elsewhere have been shown to increase productivity. In fact, out of workplace lunchtime has many people seeking forest to walks to rejuvenate themselves over that period.
So friends, I don’t know if it really is magic or science or just a beautiful thing, but what I do know is the forest does have a resonance and power to make us feel better, be younger, smile and be happy.
Take that walk soon and feel it.
Sources and more info:
Finally, I invite you to check out a sneak preview of my new book about finding magic in the forest, “The Adventures of Presley and the Mighty, Noble Knights” PresleyMK
(CLICK on Presley MK)
Thanks for coming along on my journey through the woods. I always like to back up magic with a little science.
With a nod to International Women’s Day, I thought I’d explore the dichotomy of keeping inspired through despair. So many of us women try to be Wonderwoman and it’s only natural to be struck with setbacks of exhaustion, self-doubt and the reality of not being able to achieve all that we wish to. What happens, though, when negativity wins over inspiration? Depression can set in and if you are like me, it can become a looming entity hovering between you and your dreams.
There are many degrees of depression and I won’t even begin to profess to be an expert. They range from chemical imbalances to a critical inner voice and all are destructive. Whether you may experience being particularly hard on yourself to perform or are battling a losing war with a chemical imbalance, I thought I would reach out with a bit of wisdom wrought with love.
For the last while (I won’t admit to how long …) I have been “shoulding” myself to death. Instead of just getting on with all that I want to do, I heap way too much on my plate and then get overwhelmed by the mass of it. Procrastination reigns and I end the day again, feeling pissed at my inability to move forward.
So instead of whining to myself (and you) I thought I would search out some bad habit blasters and share them with you. Yes (busted!!) I am procrastinating again but by reaching out with these hopeful points, maybe I will feel like I accomplished something today.
1. Ok, first we have to love ourselves. I live to spread love out but find it very hard to accept love in.
Here is a great perspective on remembering what it takes to love yourself. Grab yourself a cup of tea and have a listen to A Tedx Talk by Gala Darling titled Radical Self Love.
2.We all try to be special in some way. As an inspiration to our gender, I want to share two very special women with you to make you smile and love what makes us women.
As many of you know, Maya Angelou spoke her truth throughout her whole life. Her dedication to Human Rights, starting with her life story, inspired the world to love her. One of my favourite quotes from Maya is, “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”
Martha Graham was a pioneer of modern dance. Her passion for dancing wasn’t thwarted when she was told she was “Too old, too big and too ugly” to be a ballerina. She created a new expression of dance that at first repelled her audience. It was so different, so awkward that it’s authenticity made people uncomfortable. It didn’t take long for the passion for the art to shine through and convince the world to love a new, bold and raw form of dance that moved the audience to tears.
The two women above didn’t try to be Wonderwoman. They just lived authentically and made their purpose their passion. How easy is that? Very, because it’s hard to dampen down passion. Even if we have “down days” our passion is still there, waiting … quietly.
I guess we should go easy on ourselves. There I go “shoulding” again.
3. But, really, it’s so easy to be hard on ourselves when we could be just taking a deep breath and making a list! Let’s start “coulding ” ourselves!
Seriously, making a list helps when you are overwhelmed. If you are specific about your tasks, just the process of listing them is an accomplishment. You become more clear and focused and by just ticking off one thing, you break the cycle of frustration.
Check out Michael Pollock’s blog to help you get your goals back on track.
4. Look around. Life is good. One of my all-time favourite things to put life into perspective is DESIDERATA. Have a look and download!
5. Try going for a walk or meditating, or just having a bath. The time and place where you can spend some quiet time with yourself can be healing in many ways if you let it. As you take these few minutes, think of how you would describe yourself from the perspective of someone else. Really try to look at yourself from another’s eyes. You aren’t so bad, right?
This is a quote from Martha Graham: “There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.”
If you are inspired by Gala, Maya and Martha that’s great! They have amazing perspective and I wish I could get all three in the same room. If, however, you still feel the grip of depression dragging you down, it’s no light matter. Have a look at Dr. Lisa Firestone’s 6 truths and 8 ways to fight it.
In closing, our dreams are the things that keep us going. As women, we multitask through our day and still feel we didn’t do enough. Let’s pat ourselves on the back instead of putting ourselves down. We are wonderful women – no need to be Wonderwoman!
Bonus: I ran out to do an errand before posting this and gave myself time to reflect on how personal this post is. I gave myself a moment to ask if I wanted to “spill”. I decided to leave it as is because that is what blogs are – personal. I was listening to the radio and heard a “Woman mash shout out” for Women’s Day and they played a tune from the past that always had me up and smiling. So, along with the walks, baths meditation or cup of tea I have suggested, get up and dance TO THIS!!
Happy International Women’s Day. xoxoxo
My book, Gifts of the Crysnix, is for people with big imaginations and big hearts. It is for people who feel compelled to root for a fallen champion and feel compassion for a lost soul. One who is in search for greater ideals and who is always willing to learn more about themself and be a better person can identify with the life-lessons that are gently persuaded from the pages.
When I wrote the book I targeted the message to young people at the brink of adulthood. I thought that reading a book with new heroes who are just trying to figure out the labyrinth of life would appeal to them. Although I have appreciated positive kudos from all ages, I had the immense pleasure of meeting six young ladies who I really wrote the book for. I was the guest author at a mother/daughter book club and got to meet my target audience up close and personal.
I have to admit, I was a little nervous because it was the first time I would have honest feedback from several people at once. You just never know how something like that will turn out! The girls were very organized with their questions and critiques. Exploring the origins of my inspiration and the depths of my research, we had a lively and spirited discussion. I was so impressed by the maturity of these 11-year-old girls and the intelligence of their questions and comments. All in all, the book passed with flying colours and I didn’t have to slink out of the room with my tail between my legs.
My young target audience is a group of people with literally the weight of the world on their shoulders. They are our leaders of tomorrow and they have a lot on their plates. I appreciate the steep learning curve they are on. The primary reason why I wrote the book is to remind the reader to fight the fear that holds them back, to advocate their moral compass and to realize that by just being your true self is enough to gain respect. I dreamed up the Crysnix to personify our inner voice. We all have to listen to it because somehow it knows the future and is always right.
If I can share a little wisdom to our future leaders, it is to trust our instincts, believe in ourselves and dig deep to create and live our best lives. These are heavy lessons and I used a beautiful world of fantasy and imagery to get the point across.
Thank you to Connie and Lily for an evening I will never forget. Thank you to all the girls and moms who were there that night. I absolutely loved the interaction! It was a real thrill for me to sign the books to the girls after they read it with them exclaiming to each other in the background about how much they loved it!
What a treat for an author. For all those countless hours I spent conjuring up the story alone in front of my computer with only my imagination and hope for company, this night was a wish come true.
To see a video of me reading the Prologue set to the beautiful music of Thomas Newman, please click here
If you think that writing a book is daunting, it’s only half of the work once you jump into the ocean of publicity and promotional options. Authors who love to write and bring their stories to the masses have to be adept at having a marketing brain as well as being a wordsmith. That is why it is such a treat to have help from the interviews and reviews.
My last post was about the Hungry Monster Review, which I really appreciated. Now I have the honour to share the interview from Hungry Monster. I can’t express enough how exciting it is to interact with those who make it their passion to promote authors like me.
Thanks again to Thomas Anderson for his time and kind insights.
Please read the interview here.
Cheers to all and have a great day!
Oh my goodness!!! What a thrill to open a notice from Google Alerts to find this delightful review! It is the most comprehensive one yet – and still so positive and inspiring.
Thanks to the folks at the Hungry Monster for their time and effort toward reading my book, Gifts of the Crysnix and writing such a lovely account. Hungry Monster reaches out to the following:
- Barnes & Noble
- The Hungry Monster Book Review
Imagine how my heart swelled when I read:
This novel is filled with so much goodness, it’s difficult to feel a negative thought. Lisa Shore gives plenty of sage-like advice in these pages that I couldn’t help but feel like I was better off after reading it.
Overall, this book was a fantastic read. The plot holds enough meaning to make the lessons learned both insightful and valuable to any reader that pays attention enough to take it to heart. I would love to enter this world again and see how the characters continue to progress!
Please take a moment to read the review by clicking the link below.
You can even buy it at their bookstore at a discounted price!
Just click here for savings.
I am presently working on an author interview with them. I’ll share it soon!
Have a lovely day!!
Hello, Winnipeg! Welcome to my launch!
McNally Robinson Booksellers … (cue dramatic music …) a mecca for any prairie author to give a reading and launch.
It is one of the most beautiful and HUGE independent bookstores that still remains in North America and is the largest in Canada. You can just feel the unique touches as you walk in – the children’s section built like a treehouse, complete with a full line of clothing and soft toys, the fabulous Prairie Ink Restaurant and the photos celebrating hometown authors adorning the walls like a frieze of accolades. This is a special place and I was so honoured to have my launch there recently.
Thank goodness it wasn’t a scene from Thomas Wolfe’s You Can’t Go Home Again! That expression was so false when I looked out at the many faces of the people who took time out of a beautiful summer evening to attend my launch.
Family, friends from my school days and friends of my parents, dear friends I can never see enough of and old friends I haven’t seen in years, all came to support me. I can’t thank them enough for their love and “being there” for me.
My dear friend, Patty Christie introduced me. To give you the level of the bar of the people there, she came and stood at the podium to introduce me after a hip replacement two weeks before! Man, I have good friends!
My best friend from high school, Ali Hanks came by and her husband, Bruce, (and by the way a huge shout out to all the husbands who attended!) took these pictures. Thanks so much, Bruce!
My readings were set to the music of Thomas Newman, lowland and Hans Zimmer. Quite an accompaniment! If you would like to hear the music again you can click here , here and here . The first selection was the Prologue and you can read along to the music for fun. It is very dreamy and dramatic and you just feel swept away into another world. I love reading to music and plan to create YouTube videos of me reading to these selections and more.
As I signed books and chatted with old friends, I felt so grateful for the reconnection to Winnipeg. True to the Crysnix magic, the whole evening’s success was a wish come true.
I just heard from John Toews, who is the Events Coordinator, that my book reached #1 that week!
Here is a video I pulled together. Honestly, I need a resident high school kid to help me with this stuff! Just another reason why I miss my kids. Many thanks to my son, Lee for his amazing help through the evening and to him and his fiancee, Emily for putting me up and putting up with me! 🙂
A video of the evening and much love to all. xoxox
The students file into the library and I smile at the eager faces. I am at my old neighbourhood school and I marvel at how time has passed so quickly since my kids were attending Robert H. Smith School.
The familiar brick walls and corridors call out to my memories of when I was one of the moms who was a permanent fixture, helping out when and wherever I could just to get a glimpse of my kids during their school day.
This is from the letter I sent to the principal, to introduce myself:
I grew up in River Heights and brought up my family there. My three children went through Robert H. Smith in the ’80’s and I was very involved with the school. At the time, I had a video production company and I created a video about the building of the new school and the historic accolades of the original. It was a great fundraising project but also became a testament to the legacy of the presence of the school in the community.
Although I now live in Calgary, my son still lives in River Heights. When I visit him, I love how the memories flood in as I drive by the school. Memories of a very happy time in my life as I raised my young children as part of a loving and thriving community.
My book, “Gifts of the Crysnix”, is about a small community and the people trying to live with purpose. It is about choices and making the right ones to better their lives. Targeted to your middle-grade students, it promotes the message that they have tremendous power over their lives
by trusting their instincts and believing in themselves. This is the gist of my presentation to them. I will talk about life choices, the science behind a wish and also the components of creating a good story.
My presentation went well and I was thrilled to have the kids line up to buy the book. There were so many, I was struggling to come up with original notes to write alongside my signature!
As I was leaving, I realized I didn’t have a picture of the school. The children were all streaming out of the school, on their way home for the day. I asked one of the boys who bought my book if he would mind taking a picture of me. I asked his name and Daniel smiled and took this great picture of me. Thanks, Daniel!
I was loading my things into my car as Daniel and his mom came running up to me. Daniel’s mom asked if she could take a picture of Daniel and me. I was so touched.
After, as he was running back to his mom’s car, Daniel called out to me, “I’m your new fan!”
Wow, what a high point of the day! When I think of the years it took me to have the guts to publish this book, I wonder – honestly, why did it take me so long?
With a couple of weeks to go before school lets out for the summer, the students at Balmoral Hall School must have thought I was crazy when I exclaimed how GREAT it was to be back!
But, really, it was.
I began in Kindergarten and left in Grade 7. The memories are rich and textured and, although the school has changed quite a bit with brilliant new wings and lofty ceilings,
the exterior of the old school is still there and the memories are visceral as I remember how it felt to push out the heavy doors and run down the stairs to the playground.
I was struck by the feeling of belonging as I noticed the beautiful, bronze plaque from a capital campaign years ago, and chuckled at my name engraved on it. I felt proud of the connection
My presentation in the beautiful Sifton Theatre Auditorium went off without a hitch as I reminded the girls to believe in themselves and to fight the fear that holds them back from living their best lives.
After, I really enjoyed meeting the girls and hearing their dreams of being a writer. There was zero doubt in my mind they would go places and have a significant impact on the world.
It was an honour to put a note in a beautiful writing journal.
I stood under the pictures of the Head Mistresses who were there so many years ago with me. There have been five more Heads of School since and I felt like I entered a time warp.
There is nothing left of the old senior school as I signed in at the new entrance. Complete with a buzz-in system and guard at the front, I wondered, what has the world has come to? as I clipped on my visitor tag.
Gone are the days when I used my crutches with my broken leg in Grade 1 and won at “Mother, My I?” under the glass passage. The old swing sets are gone and with them the original and all engrossing pastime of swing tag. The kilts are still there, though, and the prefects and Closing Exercises, and I am convinced the facilities, ethics and dedication toward our leaders of tomorrow are new and improved.
As I walked to my car, I glanced at the old Junior School. Still the tindlestone brick and the many windows we all looked out of, almost every day of our formative years. I paused and looked at one window in particular and a hilarious memory flooded in of when a schoolmate climbed out of it, causing quite a stir as she inched along the outside of the building and climbed in the next one. I remember telling my mom about it and she just laughed along with me. She was definitely NOT old school.
Many thanks to Balmoral Hall for the warm welcome and the warmest of new memories. There is something definitely intriguing about going back … to the place of your foundation and the seat of your ideals and values and friendships and aspirations … to your old school.
Sweeping, swamping memories flood in as I drive around the old, familiar streets. Anyone who knows River Heights understands when I say how the cavernous, verdant arches of the tree-lined streets whisper, “Welcome home, welcome home.”
I can’t help but drive by my old homes as my son now lives on my old street and as I go to visit friends, they live on another old street and as I drove into town and went to the car wash, I couldn’t help drive by another as it was on the way. Seeing the places where I once lived tugs at my heart as I remember the visceral details of switching on certain favourite light fixtures, the feel of opening a window in the spring or the heft of opening a front door, all insignificant at the time. All were just moments and motions in an ever-changing life that always moved too fast. Moments and motions that were torn and shoved into memory as life abruptly moved on. Now, as life is a little calmer and I am much more at peace with all the loss and change, I look at my old homes, not with sad nostalgia, but a reverence for the pace and resilience I developed in those years.
Winnipeg has a way of drawing old friends together as we all lived up or down the streets from each other. We have generations of tales of antics down the back lanes. “We trudged to school in minus 30 degrees up and downhill both ways…” was the joke of our parents and we laughed at the part about being in the hills, not about the temperature that earned Winterpeg its nickname. Close to the longitudinal centre of Canada and also on the pancake flat prairies, I actually have a lot of respect for anyone who can drive decently in snow. We played and grew and loved and lived in an urban forest and never realised how incredibly special the quality of air is from all those trees. Years ago an out-of-town friend said Fess up – there are only five streets in Winnipeg and you have lived on all five! Pretty much.
My hometown is a place of constancy. Not a large city, it boasts beautiful women, bountiful nearby lakes, and culture to rival anywhere. The fans of the Winnipeg Jets are renown for their loyalty and that love and devotion just spills over into lifelong friendships.
I am here to share my book, Gifts of the Crysnix. This is big for me! It will be so poignant for me to look into the eyes of old friends and read my words – my heart – to them. I have chosen the biggest, most beautiful bookstore in town and it thrills me to think I will finally be launching at McNally Robinson Booksellers. If you would like to read more about it go here.
A blurb about me from McNally Robinson was in the Winnipeg Free Press weekend edition. Out of the blue, I heard from an old friend, actually, someone I was never really close to but knew many years ago. She took the time to track me down through my website and say hello. It was so great to hear from her as she congratulated me and promised to read my book. An acquaintance from the past, in this harried, busy life, made the time to send me a lovely note. That is the kind of quality of people who live in my hometown.
I am so proud to be back in Winnipeg.