Goodbye ‘dreadmill’, hello trees

It’s May and we’re standing on the edge of summer, when ‘the livin’ is easy!’ Tulips are pushing through the soil, grass is greening, temps are climbing, lawnmowers will soon be humming and life is moving outdoors.

Hope springs as trees begin to burst with green foliage and magically transform the landscape. Trees hold a secret inside their leafy canopies. New research suggests they offer some significant health benefits. There are some great reasons to ‘hug a tree,’ or maybe a forest, metaphorically speaking, even if you’re not technically a tree-hugger.

One study found that kids with ADHD who walked in a forest versus an urban area had better concentration. A walk among the trees lowers cortisol, the stress hormone. In fact, some nature gurus claim it can strengthen immunity, lower blood pressure, increase focus and ultimately lower health-care costs.

‘Forest bathing,’ made popular by the Japanese, is not about setting up your tub in the forest and having a water bath, as lovely an outdoor spa experience as that might be. It’s about immersing yourself in the healing properties of trees and plants. A 20-minute walk in the forest can reduce cortisol by 13.4 per cent.

Forest bathing became part of a national health program in Japan in 1982. Last year, the Washington Post reported it has become the latest fitness trend to hit the U.S. It’s where yoga was 30 years ago. In Canada, it has spawned the new field of forest therapy guide.

But doesn’t all of this feel a bit artificial – needing science to tell us it’s good to get in the woods, needing a forest therapy guide to lead us through a simple walk in the forest? Yet, this generation, perhaps more than any other, needs a nudge to help us get our noses out of our devices.

We can be our own guide, choosing to awaken from our digital comas and reconnect with the natural world. This is where we slow down, connect with our surroundings and unconsciously absorb all those benefits.

Whatever we may think about forest bathing and forest therapy guides, getting outdoors beats the dreadmill by a country mile. Treadmills were first used in prisons as instruments of punishment. Why is that not surprising? I don’t consider myself a sucker for punishment, but I succumb to treadmill use in winter to reduce my odds of looking like a whale in spring.

But with summer bliss unfolding, the dreadmill has been relegated to an obscure closet of my mind. There will come a sad reunion with the dreadmill in late fall. In the meantime, I intend to breathe deep, inhale summer, find the trees and hit the trail.

Beware the cheap apology

Perhaps you heard the latest apology from Sean Spicer. The White House press secretary, was forced to make amends last week for his latest ‘woops’ moment when he was criticized for excusing Hitler.

He is certainly not the only public figure to find himself in this position. In today’s social media world, the faux pas of our leaders are outed fairly regularly.

Apologies are necessary in society. They are the lubricant in relationships and workplaces. We need them to smooth out the rough places. We all make mistakes and when we do, we need to own up.

In Canada, we are ahead of the game. We are a nation of apologizers. Here, apologies aren’t cheap, they’re free and frequent. We say sorry for each little near mishap as we navigate crowds. We continue to be the polite nation, apologizing for things that often need no apology. It’s part of our charm. Our boy, Justin Bieber captured this reality in his pop song, “Sorry.”

People in public office and others in positions of trust have a greater responsibility to maintain that trust. When they mess up, we need to know their apologies aren’t just publicity stunts and that they’re more than just words. Celebrities increasingly find themselves in the same position.

Sometimes apology analysts get involved. They try to determine which apologies are sincere and genuine and which are bogus, simple play-acting, posturing for the public, just words.

If only they could intervene and offer their insights when the cheapest apologies are spoken. Cheap apologies are the standard currency of batterers in situations of domestic violence. The battering cycle has a tension building phase, an acute battering episode and a honeymoon phase.

During the tension building phase, the spouse (and any children) instinctively walk on eggshells, trying not to trigger a battering episode. But of course, they cannot prevent it. It is bound to happen. After the episode, the batterer typically feels ashamed for the outbreak and apologizes, sometimes with tears for his or her behaviour.

These are ultimately cheap apologies because they do not lead to any change in behaviour. They are simply words calculated to restore the trust of the victim. The victim wants to believe. How dare they not believe the abuser has changed? And so the cycle continues.

These apologies are both cheap and very costly. Lives are at risk. Domestic violence doesn’t typically de-escalate, it builds, it gets worse. Victims who decide to end the relationship and leave are especially at risk.

Cycles of abuse are identifiable. Saskatchewan has a big problem with domestic violence. We need to help young girls and boys understand the cycle and what fuels it. We need to educate so young men and women can break generational patterns and head into relationships with eyes wide open.

I’m sorry to have to say this, but, beware the cheap apology.


The ultimate ‘Fakebook’ rant

When Facebook first blew past MySpace to dominate social media it was all the talk. A movie (The Social Network) was made about it. People piled on in droves.
Early on, it seemed to be the new confessional for young people who likely indulged in a little too much self-disclosure. We learned things we didn’t want to know. When their parents showed up in Facebook, a lot of the young ones bailed, opting for other upcoming platforms, like SnapChat or Instagram.
With time, people learned that if you weren’t careful, you could lose your job through a careless post. The gap between the public self and the private self was essentially gone. Most people have wised up and tamed down their posts, with some glaring and amusing exceptions.
Personally, I have a like-hate relationship with Facebook. Not love-hate. Or maybe it’s a tolerate-hate relationship.
For one, people are getting smarter (or is it dumber) on the platform. Their profiles are more carefully managed. Yawn. It’s like a family Christmas card. It’s nice to get but it doesn’t tell you much. It has morphed into Fakebook.
Now we are treated to a plethora of safe, sanitized content. We see themes like cooking, humour, self-tests (are you this or that?), family photos, animals and the like.
At the end of 2016 there were 1.86 billion monthly active users. One report says there are 1.15 billion mobile daily active users. Clearly there are masses who love it more than I do.
Like the ego-wall Facebooker. This person is busier than most with social posturing, posting selfies and tidbits of information designed to line up admirers.
Or the full-time Facebooker. This person may post every 20 minutes all day long. Regretably, I have to ‘unfollow’ you because I experience scrolling fatigue trying to get past all your material. It’s all good, but my time is finite.
What about the sentimental, positivity Facebooker? This person shares sweet sentiments and feel-good inspirational sayings with nice backgrounds. What’s not to love?
The teaser facebooker is simply annoying. Here’s a few words and now everybody jump in and ask what they’re referring to. Goodbye.
The latest is the Facebook broadcaster. It’s not enough that Facebook has a so-called “News” feed. Now it has live broadcasting features. Don’t get me wrong, I care about you. But only in rare cases will I look at your live broadcast. Again, it’s the time thing. Do I trust you to have trimmed down the content to only the barest essentials? Is everyone a pro-broadcaster? I err on the side of caution.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that fake news has found the fake platform. Social media is now the easiest way for all kinds of questionable people to find each other. It’s also an advertisers heaven. It is both much more and much less than a social network.
Where it is headed is anybody’s guess. Something else will come along. I predict an increase in private groups with greater vetting, that generate underground movements that steal across the global landscape, and break out when the time is right. Or not.
Meanwhile, it’s what we do. We amuse ourselves. Who am I to argue with a quarter of the world’s population?