Designer Stoma Bags & Ostomy Devices

silicone-flexible-device-ostomy-colostomy-bag

Silicone stoma device image credit: Dezeen

Until recently, the word colostomy had not featured in our lives. Now, within the last year, two family members suddenly found themselves with a colostomy bag as a result of major bowel and cancer operations, which requires a steep learning curve on maintenance and management and the emotional impact should not be underestimated. Some stomas can be reversed, but many are for life.

However, ostomy bags have come a long way and in many cases, they can be life-changing for the better, as they allow for a piece of diseased organ to be removed, allowing the user to live a healthier and fuller life.

After the initial operation, you are left with a stoma, which is the healthy end of the intestine, turned inside out and sits externally on the abdomen. This is the exit point for the poo and is the piece that the stoma bag can be fixed to. Stoma bags can now be ordered to your stoma’s own specific dimensions, ensuring a snugger fit which is more comfortable and less likely to leak.

Fashion designer Ted Baker had a temporary stoma and after experiencing the products that were then available to him, he worked with the manufacturer Coloplast to improve the design of the bag.

With both family members, it is a hidden disability and access to an accessible washroom can make life easier as this provides a washbasin next to the toilet which is really important for hygiene. Having a stoma bag makes you eligible for a Radar Key, providing access to accessible toilets around the UK.

Colostomy or stoma bags can generally be unattractive and quite unsexy, to say the least, but with the help of tattoos and a bit of imagination, some creative people have found a way to make them more attractive for intimate moments.

sexy-colostomy-bag-stephanie-monty-designed2enable

image credit: Dezeen

Inspired by her own family’s struggle with Crohn’s disease, Brunel University Graduate Stephanie Monty designed a prototype silicone ostomy device which is washable and re-usable and more appealing than the usual pouch. The flexible device adheres to the users’s skin, and is covered with a waterproof membrane that creates a natural, skin-like feel. Inflammation and infection are also an issue, so she included integrated vents that release gas but contain odours.

Northumbria  University student James Shutt noticed that stoma users were getting younger and after research involving teenage colostomy users, came up with the ‘Myostomy’ product.

Stoma decoration Myostomy range

Stoma device Myostomy Range

James found colostomy users struggle with sexual intimacy and body consciousness, as well as more practical issues such as the bag inflating with wind, or concerns about leaving their spare bags and cleaning kits behind if they stayed over at friends or a partner’s house. They also found that their partners were put off by the bag at intimate moments and really needed something that would be more discreet which would give the them more confidence with body image.

stoma plug myostomy range

Stoma Plug Myostomy Range

James’s Myostomy range includes a jewellery stoma plug that fits into the stoma to prevent any bowel accidents at intimate moments, which restores dignity for the user. James also came up with the idea of body art and tattoos to help users embrace their stoma. As yet, the Myostomy range has yet to be launched.

Support:

The Colostomy Association is available for support and they run the Stoma Aid project which collates unused stoma bags and re-distributes them to patients living with stomas in developing countries that cannot afford or access supplies.

StomaWise is an internet based support website offering support and advice to Ostomates of all types. They are available online and a contact telephone number is also available.

INDESmed Ergonomic Aluminium & Carbon Fibre Crutches

INDESmed aluminium colourful crutches

INDESmed Colourful Ergonomic Crutches

Spanish company INDESmed are a young, dynamic group of engineers, specialised in bio-engineering and medical devices who are well equipped to create functional and stylish mobility aids.

The INDESmed crutches are the latest addition to our online shop and have already proved to be very popular with our customers. The ergonomic crutches are manufactured with either carbon fibre or aluminium shafts and have been so beautifully designed that there is no annoying “click” sound when using them. The shaft of the crutches is slightly curved which makes these crutches very comfortable anatomically for the user.

The design of the soft and comfortable silicone hand-grip keeps the natural position of the wrist and spreads the corporal pressure over the hand, avoiding the pain in the palm of the hand. This also Improves the position of the thumb finger, decreasing or totally suppressing the hardness that appears due to a long-term use of crutches. INDESmed are so sure of the ergonomic design of their crutches that they guarantee NO TENDONITIS, or your money back!

INDESmed crutches are fully adjustable which can be achieved by moving the cuff and hand-grip along the curved area, but each size has been designed to maximize ergonomics and user comfort. Spare cuffs, silicone covers, hand-grips and tips are available to purchase, enabling you interchange the hand-grip covers or add new accessories to the shaft. The ferrule / tip is manufactured from high friction coefficient rubber and Dupon which improves the safety of the user.

carbon fiber lightweight crutches

INDESmed Lightweight Carbon Crutch

If you wish to sport the lightest, designer forearm crutch in the world, the INDESmed carbon fibre crutches are for you, weighing in at only 220 grams. They are available in small, medium or large sizes, with a black shaft and cuff and interchangeable silicon hand-grips in dark grey, black, purple and orange and look incredibly modern and stylish.

INDESmed also provide the equally trendy colourful aluminium crutches , manufactured to the same design as the carbon fibre and these weigh in at only 400 grams. The aluminium shafts are available in orange, blue, purple and titanium grey with coordinated silicone hand-grips.

orange, blue, purple grey lightweight crutches

INDESmed ‘No Click’ Coloured Crutches

You can read more about the INDESmed crutches here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Blog: The History Behind The Bidet by Ponte Giulio

Tall Bidet for the elderly

Ponte Giulio Bidet

The bidet. A strange object shaped like a guitar

Some countries are introducing it in private homes (Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil) others such as Japan, already use it but integrated with the WC.

A journalist of an important British network stressed the utility of the bidet. The article she wrote was so successful that it led to a survey, where 30% of participants declared they had used it when on holiday. Many of those Britons though, never had the idea of having the bidet in their own home and many others, probably the remaining 70% of them, never even thought to use it even on holiday, considering it as a strange object and not very useful.

But why? The answer has historic reasons. The history of bidet and its diffusion are old and controversial. The name dates back to ponies, or better the position you adopt to ride it.

Going back to the history of bidet, the first time we came across it was in France, towards the end of XVII century and the beginning of the XVIII century. It’s possible inventor, Christophe Des Rosiers, installed it in the home of the French royal family, even though it was never used.

Only during the second half of 1700 the Queen of Naples, Maria Carolina D’Asburgo-Lorena wanted one in her private bathroom at the Caserta palace.

After the unification of Italy, the officials of the Savoys had to draw an inventory of the objects in the Palace and when seeing the bidet they described it as an “object for an unknown use and shaped like a guitar”.

During the early years of 1900, with the spread of water pipes inside private homes, the bidet along with the WC moved from the bedroom, where it used to be placed, to the bathroom.

As for the diffusion of the bidet it is used only in a few countries. Italy tops the chart, with 97% of its population using it according to a 1995 survey, followed by Portugal with 92%, France 42%, Germany 6% and the UK with 3% of users.

Some countries such as the USA even consider the bidet improper. It seems the first time Americans came across the bidet was in brothels during the Second World War, so they associate it to something weird and inappropriate.

Many non Italians admit having used it on holiday even for unusual purposes – fish tank, ice holder, shoes holder or dish washer – some countries are beginning to introduce it in their private homes (Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil) while others such as Japan, use a version of it which integrates it with the WC in private homes and hotels.

Too few people still value the utility of the bidet in our opinion. It is especially handy for the elderly, who have difficulty in taking a shower and could use the bidet and the washbasins as an alternative. The same applies to people with motion difficulties.

Ponte Giulio also offer the bidet among its wide selection of products. We offer higher bidets, 500 millimetres, to make it easier to use by non self-sufficient or aged people. Together with the hygiene, comfort and safety is granted with the provision of Ponte Giulio grab rails next to the bidet.

We are sure that little by little many more people in different countries will value the benefits of the bidet and will start using it.

This article has been supplied by our Italian partners Ponte Giulio,

designed2enable do not currently stock Ponte Giulio Bidets, but inquiries are welcome, via our contact page 

 

Product News: Ponte Giulio WC / Washroom Area Kit

accessible bathroom kit

Ponte Giulio W.C./Washroom Kit

Did you know that with the requirements of the DDA (Disability Discrimination Act), there is now a legal requirement for businesses to provide inclusive washroom facilities for all?

The provision of accessible washrooms has definitely come a long way in the last few years and the major supermarkets and department stores seem to have met the brief but there are still many smaller businesses that have yet to take the DDA requirements on board.

Ponte Giulio have therefore created this kit solution that fits the bill and can easily be installed into a washroom, consisting of five straight Prestigio grab rails and one hinged rail, a cushioned back rest for added safety and a mirror assembly kit. 

Ponte Giulio Prestigio straight safety grab rail bar range

Ponte Giulio Prestigio Grab Rail Colours

The washroom kit solution is ideal for restaurants, tea rooms, pubs, offices, shops, cafes, car sales showrooms etc., and the rails are available in a range of colour options. Coloured grab bars are particularly helpful for the visually impaired  and those with dementia (red or blue). However, we have personally come across accessible washrooms that have been well equipped but are then used by the company for storage for high chairs or other such equipment and then there is an embarrassing few minutes which the staff have to clear the room to make it usable again, which is not really recommended!

Ponte Giulio prestigio safety folding up grab rail

Ponte Giulio Prestigio Folding Safety Rails

The WC / Washroom Kit can also be used just as easily in your home, if you need the extra safety and support that is provided in this complete kit solution for yourself, friend / family member. The grab bars can also be purchased, without the mirror assembly kit and back support, if that is all that is required.

Further information is available here

 

 

 

 

 

Laughter Yoga Therapy

Credit Richard Duszczak

Credit: Richard Duszczak

The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “Yuj”, meaning to yoke, to integrate, to harmonise. It means union, or connection – with your own body, with your thoughts, with the world around you, your environment, and also your breath. Your breath acts as a bridge between your mind and your body – a constant exchange of energy, a mirroring between your physical and mental being – when you deepen your breath, you calm your body by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. When you calm your body, you calm your mind, and when both your mind and your body are at ease, then you start to become more relaxed in the present moment. This ability to be fully present in “the now” is the key to finding happiness, because we can only experience happiness in this present moment. We cannot feel an emotion in the past or the future, only now. Being present allows us to forget about the emotions of our past and the anxieties of the future, and enjoy simply being.

The practice of yoga asana, which is what most of us would recognise as yoga, is a means of using the unity of mind, body and breath to find joy in the present moment, as are meditation and mindfulness practices. Laughter yoga, however, takes a slightly different approach – there are no physical requirements or limitations to practicing laughter yoga, which makes it a universal option for people seeking a happiness practice but who are unable to practice hatha yoga.

Laughter_Club_India

Laughter Club India

 Scientific research has proven that laughter has a documented positive impact on mental and physical well-being, as a form of complementary preventative and therapeutic medicine. In March 1995 Dr Madan Kataria, a GP from Mumbai, India, was curious about the practice, having researched the benefits and discovered a man who claimed to have recovered from a terminal illness by using laughter yoga as his main form of therapy. Kataria began a laughter yoga group, starting with just 4 people and growing to over 50 people, encouraging his participants to release their inner childlike playfulness out of its learned confines. He started with sharing jokes and anecdotes, but the jokes soon became tired and old, and then he realised that if just one person was laughing, the others were more likely to laugh – not necessarily because the joke was funny, but because they enjoyed seeing another person laugh. As they say, laughter is contagious, and he realised that there didn’t need to be something to laugh ABOUT – the magic lay in the act of laughing itself. They started making up mime and other laughter exercises – doing normal daily activities in the group but laughing the whole time. Madan’s wife, Madhuri Kataria, suggested the addition of some breathing exercises in between the laughter exercises, which incorporates the yogic connection.

 The groups started small, then began to expand in size as people began to reap the benefits. The behaviour was undeniably strange, but the health benefits were real, so more and more laughter clubs started up. Nowadays there are thousands of laughter clubs around the world, and there are also a number of organisations encouraging laughter yoga as a means of finding peace and happiness, of developing a positive community, bringing together people from all walks of life, and healing physical and emotional illnesses.

We are happiest and when we are playing, and to laugh means to be in the present moment fully, free from anxieties and fears. We’ve all heard it before, and there’s nothing like a good belly laugh, but now we know: laughter really is the best medicine!

For more info:

Action for Happiness is a movement for positive social change, bringing together people from all walks of life who want to play a part in creating a happier society for everyone. actionforhappiness.org

R x Laughter develops & implements projects that examine the positive health benefits of entertainment to reduce or alleviate the trauma of serious physical and emotional issues of children and adults. www.rxlaughter.org

 www.laughteryoga.org is the site of Dr Madan Kataria, founder of Laughter Yoga.

INDESmed Walking Sticks / Canes – Fit for a King!

INDESmed-carbon-fiber-cane-King of Spain

King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain

Our new INDESmed walking sticks have been given the royal thumbs up by the suave King Juan Carlos of Spain, who was seen sporting his carbon fiber cane when he recently visited Norway with Queen Sofia, his elegant wife, to attend the joint 80th birthday of King Harald and Queen Sonia.

King Juan Carlos looks dapper in his tuxedo and bow tie, accompanied by Queen Sofia who looked just as stylish in her long elegant dress and golden shoes which were complimented by her pashmina shawl in soft neutral tones. Unfortunately, the weather was not lending itself to the occasion and an umbrella was needed to protect them against the rain, which fortunately did not appear to dampen the occasion.

INDESmed baston carbono carbon walking cane stick black and orange tucan

INDESmed Carbon Fiber Walking Canes

INDESmed carbon fiber canes are ergonomically designed and incredibly lightweight and stylish. INDESmed are a Spanish company, created by a young and enthusiastic team of engineers specialising in bio-engineering and medical devices.

aluminium walking sicks

INDESmed Aluminium Walking Sticks

A range of aluminium walking sticks with ergonomic soft-grip handles are also available in four fun colours and 4 size options. INDESmed canes can also be customised upon request to the users size.

INDESmed have also designed a cool range of ‘No Click’ aluminium and carbon fiber crutches which can be seen HERE

You can find out  more about our fabulous range of stylish walking sticks and canes and other INDESmed products  HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspirational People – Maud Lewis, Folk Artist

Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis

Maud Lewis

The story of artist Maud Lewis is one that has touched the hearts of many, due to her facing of formidable challenges throughout the duration of her life, and creating art that embodies the simplicity and colour of a happy life in rural Nova Scotia in the 1900s. Through newspaper and magazine articles, as well as an upcoming film this year about her life and art, “Maudie”,  Maud has become a unlikely inspiration and sensation.

Maud suffered from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), a type of arthritis that causes joint inflammation and stiffness in children, and it continued to plague her during her life, deteriorating as she aged. JRA is an autoimmune disorder, which means that the body mistakenly identifies some of its own cells and tissues as foreign. The immune system, which normally helps to fight off harmful, foreign substances such as bacteria or viruses, begins to attack healthy cells and tissues. The result is inflammation — marked by redness, heat, pain, and swelling. Progressive rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of your joints causing a painful swelling that can eventually result bone erosion and joint deformity.

The renovated house of Maud Lewis folk artist

Maud Lewis’s House

maud-lewis-house-inside

Inside Maud Lewis’s home

She lived a life that wouldn’t be considered enviable by many. She was born in 1903 in the town of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and reportedly spent a solitary childhood, due to her physical differences to other children her age. Maud received her first art lessons from her mother, who taught her to hand-paint Christmas cards, which they then sold to neighbours, to bring in some money. She also learned to play the piano, but had to stop when her rheumatoid arthritis ravaged her fingers. Her physical disabilities brought her some early grief: classmates teased her cruelly, which may be one reason why she dropped out of school at 14, having completed only Grade 5. But it was reportedly a relatively happy childhood, until her parents died in the late 1930s, and her older brother, Charles, claimed the family inheritance and sold the family home where she had lived all her life.  About the same time, Maud fell pregnant and gave birth to a child. As Maud was an unmarried woman in her late 20s, the baby girl was put up for adoption and Maud never saw her again.

Not long after, Maud married Everett Lewis, a fish peddler, after responding to his advertisement for a housekeeper as a means to support herself. Upon moving in with him, she began to paint the entire house with colourful images such as butterflies, birds and flowers, which were nostalgic of Nova Scotia in the early 1900s, her happiest childhood days with her parents, and seemingly showing an inner contentment in her life with Lewis, despite reports that he scrounged away her supplies and income from her paintings. It eventuated that she wasn’t physically able to do the housekeeping, due to her arthritis, so she spent her days sitting by the window and painting. She brought in money with her artwork, with a sign on the road advertising “paintings for sale”, and Lewis kept the house. They seemingly lived a quiet, peaceful life.

Maud Lewis art

Maud Lewis Folk Art

Painting Maud Lewis disabled artist

Known as a folk artist, Maud was mostly self-taught, and lived most of her life in poverty without the money to buy painting supplies. She painted on the walls, on scraps of wood, card, plywood, the windowsills, anything she could get her hands on. She painted scenes and objects from her every day life – wildlife, flowers, trees, fishermen, simple colourful scenes that were filled with joy.

Maud passed away in 1970, having developed emphysema on top of rheumatoid arthritis in advancing years. Like many great artists before her, her work has received much higher acclaim after death, with some of her paintings now selling for over $125,000.

Maud Lewis painting arthritisMaud Lewis Folk art arthritis disability

Perhaps her art is experiencing a revival and has found a new audience in the present day because of our desire for simpler lives, for a return to nature, for creativity as an outlet for overstimulated brains in a world of technology. People are drawn to the naiveté and nostalgia of Maud’s work, and she serves as a timely reminder that a return to colourful childhood simplicity can be the greatest source of comfort in these modern times.

A film has been made about Maud Lewis and the trailer is available to watch below.

 

Opting into exercise improves knee osteoarthritis – Arthritis Digest Magazine

Arthritis-Digest-masthead-low-res-web

Choice is key when it comes to improving osteoarthritis symptoms through exercise, highlights a new study in Clinical Rheumatology.

A total of 69 older people with knee osteoarthritis were split into groups: a supervised community-based or unsupervised walking programme. Six months later, people who expressed a preference, either for the supervised or unsupervised programme, and who were assigned to their preferred choice of programme were more likely to continue with the walking sessions, compared to those who did not obtain their preferred choice of programme.

After nine months, people who had been given the group they wanted had improved levels of stiffness and function compared to those who did not get the group they wanted.

The researchers conclude:
“We show this approach promotes long-term adherence to a community-based walking program, while ensuring the maintenance of clinical benefits of walking, among older adults susceptible to avoid or not properly engage in physical activity.”

Keep up to date with the latest arthritis research news by subscribing to Arthritis Digest Magazine

Our Ponte Giulio Factory Visit for Accessible Bathroom Acccessories

Orvieto, Italy

Orvieto, Italy

We recently had the pleasure of being invited to visit the factory of Ponte Giulio, one of our accessible bathroom suppliers, which just happens to be in Italy! They didn’t have to ask us twice (well, actually they did because we didn’t think we had heard correctly the fist time)!

We flew out on the Thursday afternoon and were met at the airport by Marco and Massimo who then drove us the one and a half hour journey to their beautiful historic town of Orvieto, which is just north of Rome, built high on a cliff top, with five ancient gates in and out of the town. We arrived early evening and were immediately whisked off to dinner to a traditional Italian restaurant across the road from our hotel. We were joined by Enrico, the owner of Ponte Giulio who warmly welcomed us as friends, as well as business partners and we learnt more about the hugely successful family business which was started by his father, Emidio Carloni.

We were up early the next morning and taken to the factory which is a short distance from the main town of Orvieto and were initially driven around the property which is impressive in size. The business employs 50 people and is run as a warm and friendly family business. The founder Emidio is in his 80′s and retired but still visits the factory on a daily basis, keeping a watchful eye and we had the great pleasure of meeting him.

manufacturing plant for Ponte Giulio grab rails and shower seats

Ponte Giulio Factory

The morning was spent meeting the employees, touring the factory and watching the manufacturing processes, which in many cases were automated with robotics. The rails are bent, cut to size and polished by machinery but the anti-bacterial vinyl covering on the grab rails is completed with a manual process, to enable it to be applied to the rails.

Their very stylish acrylic basins are made manually, using one slab of an acrylic based material, which is then placed on top of a mould and gently smoothed into place by hand. They are then placed in a vacuumed environment to complete the process and to set the acrylic to a hard finish.  The acrylic basins are a show stopper, very contemporary, smooth and elegant, they are pore free, easy to maintain, with anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. Some basins have an integral grab bar at the front which can provide extra stability for the user, if they are unsteady on their feet or a point to pull against for a wheelchair user to manoeuvre themselves under the basin. The rail can also be used as a towel or flannel rail.  The basins do not have an overflow and so the drain is free flowing, but an overflow can easily be added upon request.

grab rails shower seat and sink

Ponte Giulio Range

We broke at lunchtime with a quick dash into town for a delicious lunch of mixed seafood and roasted vegetables and a glass of their very special Ovieto Classico wine, which is very easy on the palate. We were then treated to the stunning panoramic view of Orvieto (see image top of page) on our way back to the factory, to discuss business and to look at their research and development area and exciting new products in the pipeline. Ponte Giulio trade internationally with distributors in many countries, and have a strong presence in the  U.S.A. The UK is a relatively new area for them and so it was interesting to discuss the opportunities that are available for us both here in the UK.

Outside the Ponte Giulio factory in Italy

Factory visit Ponte Giulio

At the end of the day, we said our thanks and farewells to Enrico (above centre) and arranged to meet Marco Ragno (above right) for dinner. The food in Orvieto is heavenly; cake, fruit, cured meats and cheese, bread and croissants for breakfast. We loved the antipasti selection for cured meats, cheese, olives and bruschetta. The other delights that we sampled were wild boar, rabbit kebabs, pasta with hare, seafood , fried chickpea pancakes ( these were amazing) and fish of the day with olives, cherry tomatoes, oranges  and dauphin potatoes. This was our last meal and the powerful taste of the sweet oranges stayed with me all the way back to the UK!

Orvieto food

Orvieto food

As a wheelchair user, I did have slight trepidation in staying in Orvieto, with the one in 4 hills and cobbled streets, but I took my Freewheel with me and all was good. We had the weekend to explore the town which is full of shops, cafes, restaurants and so much history. The Duomo stands proudly at the top of the town, towering majestically over Orvieto.

Italian cathedral / Duomo Orvieto

Duomo Orvieto

The shops offered an interesting array of designer leather bags, ceramics and sculptures, olive wood homewares and small fashion boutiques, which made it very easy to wander around and take in the atmosphere. It was also lovely to sit in the sunshine and enjoy a coffee and people watch.

streets of Orvieto

Streets of Orvieto

Just before we left, we happened to spot a lady walking past with an OMHU cane. OMHU was then bought by Sabi, who re branded the canes. designed2enable are the UK sales agents for Sabi canes and pill boxes ( as we also were for OMHU),  so it was a real treat for us to see our canes in use in the small town of Orvieto. The lady was visiting all the way from Hawaii and she kindly let us take a photo – see below, and said how much she loved her cane.

Hawaii lady OMHU cane Orvieto

Lady with an OMHU/Sabi Cane

Sadly our time came to an end on Sunday afternoon and Massimo drove us back to the airport for our journey home. Needless to say it was typically cold and raining when we landed. Boo hoo!

Trees Please – Forest Bathing for Health & Wellbeing

John M forest 3

image: John Mundy @golfphotostore

Shinrin-Yoku is the medicine of simply being in the forest. As a remedial tonic to the over-stimulation of modern life, this practice of “forest bathing” or “taking in the forest atmosphere”, of taking a walk, breathing in the fresh air, opening our senses and feeling contact with the earth and our natural surroundings has become a cornerstone of preventative health care and healing in Japanese medicine.

What kind of sickness can be cured from walking in the woods? An age old remedy to get some colour in your cheeks, as Grandma would say, it’s now scientifically proven that getting outside can help you heal and increase your vitality. We all recognise that we feel better and generally more alive when we step away from our technology and screens for an hour (or a whole day) and just practice being mindful of our surroundings, opening our senses of smell, sight, sound, hearing, taste. We have more energy, we feel more inspired, more in touch with our surroundings, we make healthier choices, and we develop a closer connection to the natural world around us, more aware of how our individual choices have an impact on our environment.

John M forest 8

Image: John Mundy @golfphotostore

In the last several decades there have been a number of scientific studies on the healing effects of simply being in wild and natural areas. It is no coincidence that this comes at a time when the popularity of outdoor adventure, environmental consciousness, adventure tourism, and alternative therapies such as wilderness therapy for troubled or at-risk youths are increasing ten-fold. A number of organisations are creating programs incorporating mindfulness meditation, hiking, just being outside. People are recognising the importance of our natural world to the health of our internal landscapes. This scientific research proves that our plants and trees are designed to heal. There is an incredible life-supporting synergy and cycle in the natural world, and forest therapy places us as humans amongst this healing environment. Many trees give off organic compounds which support our ‘natural killer’ cells – an integral part of our immune system’s way of fighting off cancer.

Other benefits of spending time in nature? Reduced stress, better sleep, increased recovery from illness, reduced blood pressure, improved mood, increase in ability to focus on one thing at a time, more energy. Opening our senses to nature also develops our intuition –  we learn to contact the world around us in new ways and in turn listen to what our bodies are telling us – messages that can be clouded by technology, mixed messages and distraction. When you spend too long in the city and all you want is to lie in the park, this is your cells sending you a message about what it needs. Other long term benefits on a more personal level include better relationships, increased flow of life force energy, overall increased happiness, a better understanding of the land on which we live, and the condition of our natural environment.

john M forest 1

Image: John Mundy @golfphotostore

One of the most significant problems in our age of connection is that, ironically, we are becoming more and more disconnected from reality. We develop relationships over social media rather than in person, we hide behind our technology, we don’t understand that our actions have a knock-on effect in the world. The more technologically wired we are, the more isolated we become, to the extent that we don’t need to leave our house all day. We order food online, we talk to our friends online, we work online, we shop online, we entertain ourselves online.  By stepping out of our homes, walking into the forest, we are aligning ourselves with nature and taking a step towards healing the chronic modern illness of disconnection.

And the idea, in returning to nature, is not to achieve anything, which is exactly the opposite of the demands of our daily lives. We are conditioned to always be achieving, working towards something. In the forest, Forest Bathing masters do nothing, and gain illumination. As Einstein wisely proclaimed,

“I think 99 times, and find nothing. I stop thinking, swim in silence, and the truth comes to me”.

So just be with the trees –  no need to count your steps, track your calories – just sit, or meander around, but the point is to relax rather than accomplish anything.

John M forest 7

Image: John Mundy @golfphotostore

The healing power of nature isn’t a new scientific discovery. John Muir, also known as “John of the Mountains”, an American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, glaciologist and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States, recognised this as early as the 1800s. He wrote “thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home. Wilderness is a necessity.” So we’ve known it for centuries, but age-old wisdom brings new significance in modern times, as a remedy for modern illness.

And on that note, I’m going to step away from my computer and get back to nature, back to where I came from.

You didn’t come into this world.
You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean.
You are not a stranger here.” 
Alan Watts