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Outside

Outside by Sarah James

Last summer school holidays I conducted an experiment. I decided that every hour to an hour and a half I was going to go for a walk in the forest for fifteen minutes. I knew that walking was good for me, I knew that moving frequently was good for me but I wanted to see what sort of impact the forest would have on me if I consistently spent time in it through the day.

I’m fortunate where I live. The forest is only a hop skip and a jump from our back door so my commitment to getting out in the forest six to eight times a day was doable. I took my shoes and sunglasses off in an effort to experience the forest exactly as it was without any filters. At first it was a challenge and I had to make myself go. Not for my morning walk which had been a ritual forever and I loved, but once that was done my mind and body were so accustomed to that being it, time in the forest over for the day, that I had to cajole them into going back out.

After the first few days my feet and legs were sore and I was still having to make myself get out there but something was starting to change. It was almost as if my body was resetting its clock and when the time came around to get up and go again I was standing up before I was even aware that an hour and a half had passed and my body being drawn outside.

By the end of the first week I was aware of a desire building inside me to be in the forest. I no longer had to make myself go. I wanted to be there, even if it was only to sit still. To hear the birds and the breath of the trees as the breeze passed through them.

By the end of the second week I realised that the forest was having an impact on me. It was making me happy. It was consuming my stress and leaving peace in the centre of my chest. It was stilling my mind and leaving a settled clarity. My breath was slower and longer and the sense of peace came with me into my day when I left the forest behind.

I noticed the more often I visited the forest the more I wanted to stay. Things seemed to be being reversed. Now I had to make myself leave the forest and go back to my desk. Now I had to make myself stay at my desk until it was time to get up and go to the forest. It was as if the forest was revealing a whole new part of me that I’d never even knew existed; a part of me that was connected to everything, a part of me that lived always in peace.

So if your stress levels are too high and the desk job is getting you down, go and see if you can find a tree to hug, a tree that you can come back to again and again and again.

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