Forest Bathing and Dr Who

If there is one thing we can trust Scotland to get dead-on it is the best Doctor. David Tenant — am I right?

Time Lords aside, the other doctors in Scotland of the GP variety have recently teamed up with the National Health Service in Shetland to prescribe nature to patients with chronic illness. Along with their scripts and tips, patients will be given a list of seasonal activities to complement their treatment in a non-drug effort to reduce symptoms and assist their mental and physical health.

This October our Scottish friends are being encouraged to help their neighbours with their tatties  (potatoes- I googled) and to find a “grottie-buckie” on the beach.  Here in Australia our tattie seasons are a little different and we call our grottie-buckies cowrie shells, but the sentiment is the same. Find a reason to go outside, and in the words of my mother. Stay there.

We Spoonies are well aware of the benefits of nature for our various afflictions and are often told to head into the great outdoors, however, it can be a bit of a struggle to move out from underneath the blankets and the heat packs and go outside – where there is no Season 3 of The Good Place. Walking aids are a hassle, walking itself can be a hassle. There are people out there.

I am fortunate enough to live right near many walking trails and have been interested in the Japanese concept of Shinrin-yoku or Forest Bathing for a few years.  The great thing about Forest Bathing is you don’t even need to move that much to get the benefits. Simply sitting and immersing yourself in nature a few times a week is enough to feel the benefits and a trip to the local park is as beneficial as the Amazon Forest — with the added benefit of no anacondas.

Forest Bathing
Rocky Pool Walk – MJ

As a part of Kicking Hoops and Shooting Goals I have added hiking to things that I totally do now and I love it.  I’m nerding out on wildflowers, checking out walking poles and actually peopling with strangers. Hikers are a chatty bunch.

As per the point of Kicking Hoops I am only doing what I can with what I have got. It depends on the day and it’s at my own pace for me. 5 minutes of sitting counts as much as 5 hours of walking and on some days the sitting will serve more purpose. Really it’s all just a big ball of wibbly-wobbly… timey-wimey… stuff anyways.


MJ (3)






But you don’t kick hoops?

I know right? Don’t let the avatar fool you. I don’t play basketball either. Shooting some b-ball after school doesn’t mean much to me outside the theme song from Fresh Prince.

I developed the little adage ‘Kicking Hoops’ as a reference to my lack of sporting prowess that has plagued me since childhood. Somewhere in a box at the back of a shed is my year one school report which contains the actual sentence: ‘Mary Jane’s throwing and catching skills leave a lot to be desired.’ While I don’t subscribe to the notion of participation trophies for the athletically challenged like myself, I feel that as a 5 year old my teacher’s words are what Cher in Clueless would have dubbed as ‘way harsh’, convincing me from an early age that physical activity was not in my future.

So aside from dabbling in yoga and recently taking up lawn bowls, my first real team sports participation — swayed mostly by bowling club beer prices — I have largely avoided all things Sporty McSportface as a participant and a spectator. While this is mostly due to disinterest, it has remained in a state of dormancy due to a complete lack of competitiveness.

This was until I met the competition. My competition is my illness. Basketball players might have the large scoreboard with the digital timer but I’m dealing with a sands through the hourglass vibe in a race against time.

Over ten years ago I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), an autoimmune form of arthritis which causes inflammation of the joints, affects mobility and causes levels of pain that would make a circus strongman cry. It is not only restricted to joints and can affect organs, in my case my eyes and lungs.

To make matters worse autoimmune diseases come in collections. If you have one you can almost guarantee there is another stalking it. My second and most recent addition is Fibromyalgia which in a nutshell is more pain with the added benefit of fatigue and brain fog.  Technically it’s not autoimmune but it does like to cosy up to arthritis and is prevalent in our community. #Twinning.

Along with some pretty nasty drugs that range from chemo to injecting immunosuppressants, a key focus of pain relief and disease progression is exercise. It was my Fibromyalgia diagnosis that inspired my ‘game on moll’ moment and now my previously sedentary arse has to start moving whether I like it or not.

Sporting activity has never come naturally to me but I refuse to let this illness “win”. Any gain I have to me is ‘kicking hoops’.

I will fall, I will fail but I will be winning.

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MJ (3)