Hug A Tree & Live Longer

April 24, 2020

This month we have both Earth Day and Arbor Day so it’s high time to be amongst the trees. Even if you are hunkered down in the safety of your home during the pandemic, you can still derive healing benefits from gazing out of your window at nature’s bounty. If your window faces man-made materials, there is science proving that a photograph of trees can impact you in a positive physical and emotional way.

Verla Fortier, RN, author of Take Back Your Outside Mindset: Live Longer, Prevent Dementia, and Control Your Chronic Illness, shares some of the research she found about the healing powers of trees and nature. Diagnosed with systemic lupus, she was told to stay indoors to avoid the sun. And she did. Until she witnessed a noncompliant online support group participant.

Katherine Chen, meditation teacher, talks about Bodhi Meditation and its connection to nature.

If you can, go outside and hug a tree. And if you’re not sure what kind of tree you’re hugging, download a smartphone app:


welcome to glass half full with leslie krongold she shares her stories experiences and knowledge of living and coping with a chronic health condition learn about tools and resources and hear inspirational interviews that help you to live a life filled with quality and dignity with two decades of support group leadership leslie’s ready to help you make lemonade out of life’s lemons are you ready are you ready yesterday was earth day and tomorrow is armor day did you realize that arbor day is a holiday when people are encouraged to plant trees it started in 1872 with a man named j sterling morton in nebraska when he proposed the tree planting holidays and i guess it took off my love of trees has grown over the last few years i had my first forest bathing experience i virtually met verla fortier who wrote a book about the healing benefits of trees i started practicing bhagwa meditation which involves walking around a tree and the past six weeks the trees around my neighborhood represent the greater world outside of my home on our daily walks i’ve grown to really love a few specific trees and i’m motivated to learn more about different types of trees last month human furla in the podcast episode coping with coronavirus trees yoga and essential oils today you learn more about her journey to wellness brother brother lives in canada and spent her professional career as a nurse i asked her what led her to become a nurse probably started when my i was in high school my dad was diagnosed with ms and quite quickly moved from one cane to two canes to then a wheelchair and he was just such a lovely guy that i wanted to be around him and help him my mom taught me how to transfer him you know from the back uh you know things like that and uh you know i would get him up and then brace his knees against mine and push his knees back so he could stand up and then get him into the chair and then we’d laugh and i remember him just swallowing taking some time and then saying you know you did a great job there good for you and then giving me a big smile and that that was so nice and that happened so often whenever i helped him with anything and uh was such a positive sort of it was a natural for me to go into nursing and my mom was the same way so there was three of us girls the whole family we all we all did very well with with his ms and with and we were happy to have him um like a little hot shot i started out in the hospitals and the technical side of things in intensive care and all that and then quite soon became well i went over to india and found out that healthcare was more about you know public health and shelter and food and water so when i came i was much more interested in primary care so i don’t know how things are set up but in canada the government pays for the health care so all the money goes to hospitals and then they’re very well funded and then the rest of it goes to uh doctor’s offices so my interest was in getting more of that money and resources back into the community where we all are and sort of enriching that brother moved up the corporate ladder in her career and also taught at a university i asked her when her health took a downward turn to tell you the truth i was not really aware of how i was feeling uh for a very very very long time i i remember that we were this happy little family um you know this nuclear family mom dad and two little boys in large home in suburbia and then one day my ex-husband walked out the door and i had two little kids and i knew that i needed to keep them in their home and in their community so i walked over next door to the university and picked up a an additional full-time position there so i was i loved it i mean i loved i loved all the work and looking after the kids but i was just looking after everybody else’s needs for 10 or 15 years i think and if i had symptoms i just only just i didn’t do anything but work and look after the kids and sleep and it really wasn’t until they were university age that i just felt profoundly tired and i just thought you know i was 63 i thought i’m just aging and i found it difficult to walk but i always had but when i went to the gym that worked that you know that helped and um but i had i was i wasn’t able i was 63 so i really wasn’t able to do my work anymore at the university i just felt too tired and so i thought i think i’ll just go home to my to my town so i retired early and i thought oh i just can’t wait to get there you know i was thinking of all these uh things i would do swim in the lake and lie in the warm white sand and walk in the woods and you know i was really looking forward to it um yeah and then then that’s when i got my uh diagnosis i was diagnosed with uh systemic lupus and on the my blood work showed that i was on the you know the serious side of that and and when i saw my doctor i was just going in for a routine i had this rash on my face and uh but then she long time and she kept finding more rashes that i’d ignored and then she found big bald patches that i’d been covering up and ignoring too on the top of my head and then she asked me how was my joints and nerve pain and i guess yes i had that and and then she reached for my hands and she said we’ll do biopsy blood work but we’re looking at systemic lupus and um and she said and stay out of the sun because that could symptoms so at that moment i was just um i felt like all my dreams were of retirement were shattered right yeah so i but go home yeah i did go home and then i stayed inside was diagnosed with systemic lupus and on the my blood work showed that i was on the um you know the serious side of that and and when i saw my doctor i was just going in for a routine i had this rash on my face and but then she long time and she kept finding more rashes that i’d ignored and then she found big bald patches that i’d been covering up and ignoring too on the top of my head and then she asked me how was my joints and nerve pain and i guess yes i had that and and then she reached for my hands and she said we’ll do biopsy blood work but we’re looking at systemic lupus and um and she said and stay out of the sun because that could symptoms so at that moment i was just um i felt like all my dreams were of retirement were shattered right yeah so i but go home yeah i did go home and then i stayed inside having read verla’s book i knew there was a happy ending i asked her how she came around to taking a chance and not following the doctor’s orders what convinced her that the outdoors had something healing to offer her remember the day leslie i was just lying in bed scrolling through i joined every online lupus support group i could and i was i’m so used to leading them that i wasn’t even used to being so i didn’t even comment or anything i just scrolled and uh people were talking this one day about how we were all inside feeling like vampires and we had to avoid the sun because they do tell lupus patients that and uh then there was this one healthy looking person pretty healthy who had lupus and she said ongoing outside so far so good i put on my hat and sunscreen and and i thought what and by this time i really didn’t care anymore i thought i don’t even care if i get it you know if i damage my dna or whatever it is i’m going to go so i just was angry it was high noon i grabbed my hat and slapped on a bit of sunscreen and headed out i didn’t care and

i was walking for about five minutes and i started to just feel this relief you know i tell the kids it was like a in the pac-man game where you die and you get a new life i was just like powered up powered up and i i mean it just didn’t even feel real and i thought what first of all i didn’t want to go in again and then when i finally got in i remembered i had a bunch of nursing research skills and what anything in the universities that’s peer-reviewed on on trees or whatever so that’s when i started doing that and i kept going out regularly and then i just devoured the research the first piece of research i came upon was gregory bratman at stanford university and they were defining their terms and they were saying we’re going to look at this particular kind of thinking and it’s this thing called negative rumination and it’s the kind of thinking that goes what if um what if i didn’t get this disease if only there weren’t an epidemic why is my body breaking down why is this pandemic happening why do i have to be inside those kinds of questions and a parent regular kind of thinking that’s just the brain going haywire and they were tracking this and they said they wanted to know what happened if you go outside so they got a group and they put them in built um settings along a city street with just you know traffic and cement and then they put another group outside in around grass trees and shrubs in an urban environment and they found the people that were in the grass trees and shrubs just looking out on the san francisco bay area that they they had they did not have that broken record thinking it did not go to that part of the brain that i call the heartbreak hotel part of the brain it just did not happen whereas the people that were outside in the city streets that broken record thinking which we all have to some extent right it what i liked as a nurse is that they measured that part of the the brain they measured the blood flow that went there and when that blood flow goes there that’s when the thinking is activated but it didn’t so that that i loved and then those same researchers took it further and they said if this is happening within their that when we go outside we pay attention differently we softly focus on all kinds of things our eyes wander and that gives us our brain a break and when it’s getting a break it’s it’s resting and that’s what we need so that we don’t get that cognitive decline if we’ve got that that those thoughts circling around in our heads all the time the brain gets no rest and that leads to loss of shortened long-term memory loss of ability to concentrate loss of ability to problem solve and i think we all know this like when we’re worried about stuff we forget you know we we’re not paying attention we and just by going outside this don’t have to meditate or anything this just happens and so what they showed in the restoration theory it’s a real thing and when we go outside our brain rests revives and it improves our short and long term memory our ability to concentrate problem solve and learn new things and so that to me was huge because i was worried about dementia my mom had it um and it’s that kind of thinking where you look back and you feel embarrassed and this was a gift a gift i encourage you to read brother’s book which you’ll find the link to on the glass half full webpage she did a lot more research about the healing benefits of trees and green space earlier this year i signed up for a class offered at our local parks and recreation center called bodhi meditation i’ve never heard of this type of meditation but it sounded intriguing the practice essentially includes a circular walking around a pine tree alternating hand gestures and then there’s a seated guided meditation it was both energizing and relaxing unfortunately the class stopped meeting in early march due to the coronavirus i contacted the instructor catherine chen to ask her a few questions the version of this meditation that catherine teaches is named bodhi meditation because the leader of the organization is called grand master jin modi yet the practice is called energy Bagua

actually Bagua is they all starting from Tao dal permited energy Bagua so and then chibagua and the regular bagua the same however and there’s some development they am differently for example energy Bagua has been benefit a lot of people to improve their health physical health and mental health in many ways around the world but a lot of a lot of different practices is aiming different because some people learning other practice they have a different goal for us our mission is to impart this body meditation technique and to help others to eventually improve their health and improve their happiness and so what is the role of trees in the practice of uh you know an energy bang or practice

when we practice energy Bagua it’s actually is the philosophy of Tao with the young you know is the energy that of energy in our life and it’s also not the energy itself only it’s also the compassion the compassion towards yourself compassion towards others so when you practice energy Bagua is that you are actually a practice that with the nature you are kind of connect with the future and then you uh through the practice that kind of create a peaceful and very calm mind and that would benefit yourself physically at the same time and so when we did it in class because the weather wasn’t good you would always bring a potted tree what was your intention have you ever done it without a tree indoors or do you always you know bring some sort of potted tree inside we can see if two different two different aspects for example whenever we whenever we go to the nature when ever we go outdoor we see screen we see is the tree we see the flower the ocean the mountain that make people feel energetic feel good and and that kind of atmosphere and also the element of the future the nature is help us so when we doing energy Bagua we are feeling that we are join the nature and we also have the sense of connection with the nature and we do have the uh the people in occasion for example they travel to other country they of course couldn’t have a good tree that they choose to practice so a lot of them might be able to just do a few gestures in the hotel room but in the way they practice with the guided meditation and then guided the the way like when when i was practicing with you guys yeah that possible occasion that people don’t have a tree but they can still practice it’s first of all is the the matter of the mind and the nature and how you practice because meditation energy Bagua is seen as walking meditation is a state of meditation so when you’re practicing it if you don’t have a tree uh you have another way to practice but have a tree is preferable i would put that way well it was it was definitely a nice addition to learn more about bodhi meditation there is a link to a youtube video on the glassful website and i’ve also listed a few smartphone apps related to trees many of which Verla mentions in her book although many of us are still staying home and taking all necessary health precautions we still may have the opportunity to walk in green space around our neighborhoods of course this may not be possible for everyone if you live in an apartment building maybe you want to avoid elevators and being around people but there are studies that just looking outside your window at nature or even a photograph of nature can have a dramatic impact on your physical and mental well-being i invite you to be more intentional to make the time for this thank you for listening to glass half full leslie invites you to leave a rating and review on itunes this helps spread the word to others dealing with chronic health issues for show notes updates and more visit the website glass half full dot online glass half full dot online


One comment on “Hug A Tree & Live Longer

  1. Interesting – I’ve never heard this before!!

Glass Half Full with Leslie Krongold, Ed.D. © 2018