Category Archives: Health and Wellness

Finding “Happy” with John Muir

“Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail.” ~ John Muir

It was in my late teens that I first found Muir’s book, “Our National Parks.” Admittedly it was a bit of a hard read. It was his passion for the power of natural beauty that stuck with me. Now in my forties, I find myself once again drawn back to Muir’s writings as I search for my own passion and strive to see (and appreciate) the beauty in every day.

The more I learn about Muir, the stronger my conviction that he was a kindred spirit, happily suffering from wanderlust. Imagine what passion it took to travel through Alaska, explore Australia, and visit South America, Africa, Europe, China, and Japan before lay-flat beds in business class!

Muir’s wisdom can be applied to so much more than a hike in the woods, or stopping to smell the flowers. If you take just a fragment of the quote above and apply it to your everyday life, how powerful could that be?

find your happiness in the beauty all around you

“Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom…”

Maybe it’s aging, or watching my kids strive for their happiness. Perhaps it’s simply a whisper from the universe reminding me that there is more, that I’m missing the point. Whatever the catalyst, I find myself taking small steps in each day to find that freedom and in it a bit of happiness to treasure.

What did you do today to find your happy?

Checking Into Wellness: New Trends in Hotel Amenities

Wellness The New Hotel Amenity -- Mokara Spa Omni Nashville
Mokara Spa – Wellness at Omni Nashville Hotel

Who doesn’t love to indulge when traveling? After all, food is the universal language, right?  Sharing a meal can erase nearly  all barriers. Sadly, it can also erase much of the hard work you’ve done in the gym.  It seems hotels are catching on to our desire to indulge while traveling without straying too far off our path to wellness.

In a recent survey commissioned by Omni Hotels, seven in ten respondents admited to having  gained weight while traveling – even,  when making extra effort to maintain healthy dietary habits while away. According to a similar survey previously commissioned, about 26 percent of respondents wished their hotel would help by partnering with nearby yoga studios or fitness centers.

Slowly, but surely, hotels are making strides to bring wellness amenities to their guests. Starwood hotels now  offer New Balance® shoes and clothing for you to use during your stay at the reasonably rate of just $5.00 a day. Known for going that extra mile, Four Seasons properties feature some truly unique,  “whole-body” wellness programs. Fore example; Four Seasons Westlake Village boasts registered dietitians, exercise physiologists, and mouthwatering eats from the  Wellness Kitchen.

Omni’s Nashville Hotel recently announced  its Mokara Wellness program. Downtown Nashville’s only full-service spa is providing complimentary personal training and group fitness classes. Guests can participate in everything from low-impact exercises and high-intensity workouts to yoga and aerobics. A rejuvenating selections of healthy food items is also available from its spa menus.

Nashville joins several other Omni hotel properties that offer an array of wellness services.  Packing a healthy outlook – and your yoga pants – can go a long way towards keeping you on a path to wellness while you explore new roads.

That said, I still want my pillow chocolate, thank-you-very-much!

Forest Bathing? Yes, It’s A Thing

Sedona Arizona Snoopy RockSometimes writing about travel does more for funny bone than the two-hundred bucks you paid to go see Lewis Black live at Constitution Hall. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration. Only the most humorless amongst us can stay straight faced when pitched content for a, “Luxury Survivalist Excursion.”

Some days my inbox is like an episode of Laugh In. Rowan and Martin tossing one-liners at ya… “Come to our Echo Lodge – We’ll let you bring your favorite toilet paper, or we’ll point you to the bushes with best leaves.” So, when an email with the title, “Forest Bathing now available to travelers in Sedona, Arizona.” my first thought was… Sock It To Me!

Two questions immediately followed the giggle;

1. Was bathing in the forest somehow not available before this? Like was there an ordnance?
2. Is the plumbing in this hotel undergoing renovation?

I make it a point to at least skim over every pitch I get. I know how painful writing the darn things is – respect must be paid. As I read this one  it quickly became apparent that the author was a genius in writing an email title with a great hook, and that Forest Bathing was not – as I’d believed, and perhaps secretly hoped  – a bunch of people lathering up with pine sap soap and bark loofahs.

Forest Bathing Sedona Arizona

Forest Bathing, also know as “Shinrin-Yoku,” draws on the traditions of mindfulness and is rooted in a range of transcultural practices that recognize the benefits that time in nature can have a positive and healing effect on human health and happiness. (happiness – I can get behind that)

L’Auberge de Sedona, has just introduced an expert-led Forest Bathing program, designed to help guests connect with nature on a greater level by inviting them to experience their surroundings in new ways. Located along the famed Oak Creek and Coconino National Forest, and nestled within the enchanting Red Rocks of Sedona, Arizona, the property has long been a destination sought after for the naturally healing benefits of its environment. 

From healing invitations, to practicing gratitude – L’Auberge de Sedona’s creekside location provides the perfect arena for guests to take a step back and re-connect with the earth and themselves. Guests will be led by certified forest bathing experts at the resort on a gentle, guided walk along the Oak Creek, that will support well-being through sensory immersion in the naturally healing environment.

They say that laughter is the best medicine, I’m thinking a Forest Bath might be fairly medicinal as well.

Hotel Information

L’Auberge de Sedona 〉 301 Little Ln, Sedona, AZ 86336 〉 (800) 905-5745 〉 website www.lauberge.com

Amenity Information

Complimentary to guests. Private sessions available for $195 per person.

Photo Credit: L’Aburge de Sedona

Let The “Crazy” Ones Out

The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel alone. ~Robin Williams.

I believe that there exists a filament within each of us. Rooted in our hearts, it entwines itself throughout our being as it attaches like an umbilicus to our minds. The molecules within are dense and strong, yet pliable, having the ability to withstand the onslaught of all that makes us. In some of us it can transfigure, becoming gossamer, at times a mere wisp of a root. Barely holding us together.

When that filament thins to transparency, or breaks all together, so much can be lost. 

Heroes

Words

Artists

Lovers

Beauty

Friends

Faith

Children

Hope

As the media cacophony reaches a crescendo about the life and addictions of Robin Williams, I imagine his filament. Growing ever thinner. Fading away.

Time and I again I hear someone on TV say things like, “…recently returned to rehab” or “…struggled with addiction.” Were he to have died from cancer the narrative would undoubtedly have been different.  We’d be hearing things like, “After a long and courageous battle with…” It seems that where mental illness is involved – addiction, depression – there is little room to acknowledge courage. After all a gifted, iconic, beloved, and wealthy star could have no “reason” to take his own life. 

Depression has about as much reason as a cancer cell does.

They both choose their victims at random. Preying upon people from all walks of life with no regard for the size of one’s bank account or contributions to humanity.  They eat away at the people we are, changing the very structure of our being, leaving behind destruction in their wake.

Yet cancer gets walks, runs, standing up to. While depression – mental illness – gets shoved into a dark corner, hidden in a closet, stuffed inside. Why? Does anyone really think that someone chooses mental illness? They just wake up one day and say, “Today I think I’d like to ruin everything I’ve ever worked for, and hey maybe destroy the lives of those who love me while I’m at it?” No, they don’t. The thoughts choose, consuming them like cancer.

Until society as a whole can open that closet, let The “Crazy” Ones out, and treat the suffering as equal to anyone with any other disease they didn’t choose to get, we will find ourselves here again. The shock and sadness will come back. More lives will be lost. 

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America*. It is the 3rd leading cause of death in people between 15 and 24 years old*. Every day 22 American Veterans take their own lives**. 

While we all talk about our favorite Robin Williams movies (mine: Good Will Hunting, Hook, & What Dreams May Come) can we each make a little time to reach out. If you suffer from depression, tell someone. Talk, they want to listen. Talking can help.

Suicidal thoughts are not personal. They don’t mean that the person having them doesn’t love you enough. They are a part of the pathology of an illness that thrives -amongst other things – on isolation, shame, and fear.  If you know someone who is fighting a courageous battle with metal illness, tell them you stand with them. You aren’t expected to understand molecular biology to comfort a friend with cancer, you don’t have to be a psychologist to aid in the war with depression. 

Countless people at this very moment walk around with paper-thin filaments holding them together.

If you need help right now, visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org or call (800) 273-TALK

 

* Source: Centers for Disease Control

** Source: Veterans Administration

Hiking Maryland: 3 fun trails to do with kids

Waterfalls, covered bridges, history and nature abound on trails all around Maryland. With the unique topography of the state, you can hike a mountain trail one day, a shore side trek the next. The best part? Many of these trails have something that is perfect for the whole family.

Patapsco State Park

waterfall patapsco

This was our family’s first hiking adventure, a good one too. Entering the park at the Hilton area you’ll find a recycled tire playground that is a blast for kids in the 5-12 year old range. There are also several pavilions and picnic areas to rest those tired feet after you’ve trekked up the the falls.

Taking the Forest Glen Trail, you walk down a fairly steep incline that levels out at a creek.  (note to self: you’ll have to walk back up this – oy vey!) Following that you’ll pass through a very cool tunnel and can connect to the Grist Mill Trail which takes you along the shores of the Patapsco River. Parts of this are paved, a nice break on the knees. We found a hoard of sea glass along the shores.

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Up next is the Iron Bridge, with stunning views of the river that flows beneath, and just enough sway to make it a little unnerving. The day we visited, Park Rangers had set up in the parking lot with a wonderful display of the history of the area. Dude, women used to camp in heels… no joke!

From there we scaled a bit of a steep trail to a lovely little waterfall. There were lots of other families on the trails, dogs and a few horses too.

This was our first family hike and we got twisted and turned around (um, someone should have really learned to read maps better) so my account of the distance, had we followed the loops properly, maybe be a little off. It took us about 3 hours total.

 

Gunpowder Falls

2014-05-24 12.15.17

Or as I call it, “The Covered Bridges of Harford County.” Which could be a misnomer as the trial dips into Baltimore County as well, but “Harford” sounds so much sexier. This lovely trail has all the romance of Eastwood meets Streep, and a history lesson too!

Were you to hike the whole of this state park, you’d end up totaling around 120 miles. Yeah, not us. We headed out from the Central Area, which borders the Big and Little Gunpowder Falls as they flow into the Days Cove.

As we wove our way deeper into the woods, there came a noise that sounded much like a fusillade. As it turns out, it was only the sound of cars as they traversed the covered bridge. It did lead my kids to wonder if that noise was what gave the falls their name – Gunpowder. Silly kids. 2014-05-24 12.23.40

This trek is one that is more suited to those who don’t mind a scaling a few rocks, searching for hidden trails (they just aren’t marked that well) and braving some steep slopes. The pay off is a pedi a la Mother Nature, as you dip your tired toes into rushing, clear, cool water in the numerous areas that are perfect for a dip, or sunning yourself on a boulder.

Be sure to leave time for a picnic under the trees next to the parking area and the Smithy, where they host Blacksmith demos. Adjacent to the Smithy is a historic country store and across the street is a lovely little museum. All are a great way to turn your nature trek into a history lesson too. BONUS!

Rachel Carson Conservation Park

hiking maryland

This Howard County gem is a great trail to start off with if you’ve got younger children, or are new to hiking. (or say, like… you’re not that great with maps and such.)

There are a few loops in this trail, some you may have to share with a few horses, all are shared with an abundance of avian pals.

The trail itself is marked very well, mostly hard packed dirt and – depending upon which loop you take – follows a lovely stream. There is even a hidden pond, near which we met some very friendly toads!

Rachel Carson herself was a writer, environmental activist, and local resident. The trail is imbued with her spirit, making a hike here peaceful and pleasurable.

Why did we take up hiking?

Aside from the obvious health benefits and the whole communing with nature stuff, we’ve found that forcing the kids to unplug – as contentious as that can be – brings about a remarkable transformation. The typical bickering, becomes giggling. Dad stepping on a snake (yes, that happened) can be funnier than a viral YouTube video. Singing Disney tunes can replace their playlists. But obviously you can’t take the Disney out of the kid – or as we call her, Aeriel’s Fresh Water Cousin. 

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Go see what nature can do for you!

Have a favorite hiking trail, in Maryland or your home state? I’d love to add it to our list! Tell me about it in the comment section.