Mindfulness for outdoor adventurers

Lessons from the leading medical doctor in nature and forest therapy

By Leziga Barikor

The practice of mindfulness and outdoors sports would seem to oppose one another, but for Suzanne Bartlett Hackenmiller M.D., they make the perfect combination. Bartlett Hackenmiller serves as the medical director for the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy and leads workshops that combine outdoors sports with forest bathing. She has spoken nationally and internationally on the topics of nature therapy and integrative medicine.


See my full interview with Dr. Suzanne Bartlett Hackenmiller here.

Starting nature therapy

Bartlett Hackenmiller’s journey to becoming the leading doctor in nature therapy and integrative medicine didn’t start until after she had began practicing medicine. She is was and still is board certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, but as her personal life grew more hectic, her journey into mindfulness and nature therapy began.

“I practiced that [OB-GYN] for several years and found myself to be fairly burned out in the late 2000s,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said. “And it was about that time where I learned about integrative medicine and that there’s a fellowship in it.”

Bartlett Hackenmiller then went on to start and complete the fellowship in integrative medicine through the University of Arizona finishing in the winter of 2013.

“But along that time my husband was dealing with lung cancer and ultimately passed away from lung cancer in 2012,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said. “He was part of my journey for sure, into how this all happened.”

“I found myself after his death trying to reconcile death and dealing with kids and dealing with my practice that I was still kind of struggling through, conventional medicine and all of that. And learned about this idea of forest bathing, during the same time that I was spending a lot of days outdoors in outdoor adventure.”

As part of her treatment for grief and burnout, Bartlett Hackenmiller was spending a significant amount of time outdoors doing activities like hiking, mountain biking and trail running. It was during this time that she became aware of the pros and cons of outdoor adventures and mindfulness and found the balance between the two activities.

“I learned of this idea of forest bathing in about 2014 and started kind of dabbling in it shortly thereafter,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said.

The Japanese practice of forest bathing also known as Shinrin-yoku is one activity that Bartlett Hackenmiller has specialized in and leads various workshops. She is certified with the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy as a forest therapy guide.

“Now I serve as the medical director for that organization,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said.

The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy certifies guides all over the world and there are currently several hundred guides internationally according to Bartlett Hackenmiller.

Forest bathing

On Saturday, April 20 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., Bartlett Hackenmiller led a workshop at the Hartman Reserve in Shinrin-yoku or forest bathing. The guided meditative walk encourages people to engage with their surroundings. The workshop was limited to 20 participants.

“It’s always fun to take people out for the first time,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said.

The basic rundown of a forest bathing experience involves mindfulness.

“It’s about taking in nature through the various senses,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said.

She described the standard sequence that guides go through which is to take participants deeper and deeper out of their everyday conscious which she refers to as the “monkey mind” and into the subconscious mind which she calls the “liminal state.” The whole process takes at least two hours.

“We don’t cover a lot of ground,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said. “It’s not a nature identification walk or a hike for physical fitness or anything like that, it’s a very slow mindful walk.”

During the walk there are various pauses called “counsel” where participants share what they’re currently experiencing. It helps solidify the memories in their mind, according to Bartlett Hackenmiller. The forest bathing also always ends with a tea ceremony.

“We actually forage a plant from the woods,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said.

It is also during this time that she explains the herbal and medicinal properties of the tea that they begin to brew. All this knowledge comes from her background in herbal medicine.

Bartlett Hackenmiller has completed a 500-hour course in herbal medicine with the well established Dr. Tieraona Low Dog. Low Dog is a founding member of the American Board of Integrative Medicine, has worked for health related bureaucratic government committees and authored various books and research articles on integrative health.

“There’s so much that we can use from nature for healing whether it’s taking it in and using plants medicinally or just the chemicals that are emitted from plants as we’re out in nature,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said.

A post from Bartlett Hakenmiller’s blog explored the long term effects of forest bathing walks. She cited various attendees from her workshops and conducted a survey with the participants. According to her research 61 percent of her participants reported improvements in both depression and tension after the forest bathing activity. She also cited that 65 percent reduced their feelings of anger and 70 percent felt more vigorous.

New book for outdoor adventurers

Even while actively practicing medicine and leading workshops, Bartlett Hackenmiller has had time to write a new book on the topic of forest bathing. Her book, “The Outdoor Adventurer’s Guide to Forest Bathing,” is set to release on July 1 and can be pre-ordered today.

“It’s a combination of all the things I love,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said.

She was contacted a year ago by Falcon Guides a year earlier and asked to write about forest bathing. As she started working with her editor on the book, the idea of looking at various types of outdoor activities through the lens of forest bathing was one they both liked.

“It’s something I do on a regular basis whether I’m out kayaking or biking or hiking or trail running,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said.

The activities which will be included in the book includes those mentioned above and cross-country skiing and climbing. People interested in various activities from paddling, hiking to biking can find a forest bathing guide including in this book.

For each activity, Bartlett Hackenmiller includes an invitation of forest bathing and she also combines what she calls “plant wisdom” to it as well. She said that she hopes people will be able to experience the medicinal qualities of plants more in depth than they might usually when on an outdoors adventure.

Healing outdoors

There is a challenge Bartlett Hackenmiller faces with having to practice medicine indoors when, as she writes, her heart “physically aches to be outdoors.”

“I think I’ve often felt very confined seeing patients in four sterile walls of an exam room, and often thought ‘Why can’t we just take this outside?’” Bartlett Hackenmiller said. “I’ve spent some time in a third world country in the South Pacific where they had open air clinics.”

Bartlett Hackenmiller continued: “I’ve always kind of clung to that feeling, ‘Why can’t we be outside? Doesn’t greater healing take place outdoors?’”

She explained a story about a patient she had who had autism. This patient was agitated in the examination room, leading the doctor to suggests to the caregivers going outside for the treatment. The results after a few minutes outside were drastic.

“A calming came over her and she took my hand at one point,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said. “That was very monumental to her parents and we were able to get to the bottom of what was going wit her and at least come up with a plan.”

For Bartlett Hackenmiller, that was defining moment for the idea of healing and the outdoors being connected. She said that she doubts there would have been progress had they continued indoors.

Nature therapy and outdoor adventures

In another story, Bartlett Hackenmiller recalls helping a group of adults with intellectual disabilities forest bathing. She ran into the challenge of some of them having wheelchairs.

“We managed to do it on a paved sidewalk behind the conference center we were at where there was a grove of trees and there was a garden of wildflowers,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said. “And it was a really great experience for me, and also I believe the participants.”

She also includes ways to get people in special populations in her upcoming book.

Getting outdoors daily

For most business professionals facing the challenge of fitting in an experience like a forest bathing workshop could make it seem like an impossible task.

“I feel like forest bathing is something that’s accessible to just about anyone and you can do it in a city, do it at a resort, you can do it in a courtyard, I’ve done it on a golf course with people,” Bartlett Hackenmiller. “It’s something that as long as you don’t take ‘forest’ too literally, as long as there are some elements of nature you can make it work.”

Taking even a brief moment to step outside of the office and walk can give people therapeutic nature health benefits .

To encourage more people to do just that, Bartlett Hackenmiller started the hashtag #OutdoorAdventurer365. The goal of the challenge is to go out for maybe 10 minutes a day and enjoy nature. She has seen a good amount of feedback from the tag on Instagram.

“I just think that there are ways that we can take little tiny breaks even in our day and appreciate nature and I think it does something for us when we do,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said.

For more information on the doctor and her workshops, visit her website here: https://integrativeinitiative.com/

She sees both patients both in Webster City, Iowa and online through eVisits.

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Waterloo’s largest family flea market

Shopping in community

By Leziga Barikor

WATERLOO, IA

Cars were parked in packed rows already for the first day of Waterloo’s Largest Flea Market event. Although from the outside appearing to be the typical flea market event, for those involved this was more than a chance for bargain shopping — it was a function with family at the center.

“There’s a lot of family here,” said Ellen a vendor who has participated in the event for man years. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Launching things off on a brisk Thursday morning, the event ran from April 18-20 running from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m Thursday Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

See Facebook Live:
https://www.facebook.com/herenowandforevers/videos/1234370793411651/

The owner operator of the event, Shirley Sommerfelt said the help from her family was essential in putting together the event from setting up the canopies throughout the 5 acres of land it spans to its future.

“It’s just a lot of fun,” Sommerfelt said. “I enjoy doing it. And even though I’m 77-years old, and I think I’ve only got one more flea market in me… then my daughter and my granddaughter are going to take it over from there.”

Sommerfelt has been holding this flea market event every year since 2002. It happens twice a year with one in April and another in September. This April was the largest it has ever been with over 40 vendors.

“We’ve got every spot filled,” Sommerfelt said.

Sommerfelt said they usually have a food vendor and then people who sell clothes and antiques, collectibles and other items. But this year, she got a new type of vendor join her flea market.

“I do have a gal who does fingernails,” Sommerfelt said. “I’ve never had that before.”

The early morning customers gathered around Maria Spilde’s small, but impressionable vendor table for Color Street Nails. Customers were able to get a free demo of her product in the form of a manicure. Fighting against the wind, Spilde put Color Street Nail product on an attendee

“It almost goes on like a sticker, but it’s real nail polish strips and then they adhere dry,” Spilde explained for the customer.

The product that is also available online had a lot of appeal for people who may already spend a lot of time washing their hands and see painting their nails as more time consuming for the fading effect.

“Wow, those are pretty,” one attendee said after her nail job was complete.

This flea market being broad in size offered potential customers many options from the new to used to handmade items.

One vendor was holding down the fort alone with his handmade items. But these weren’t solo projects.

“My wife and I both do [handmade items],” Gary said. The vendor explained how their collection of rugs, potholders and bags were all made by themselves at home.

Gary is rather new to the crafting game by about a year and a half.

“She’s been selling all her life,” Gary said of his wife.

With such a large assortment of items, one could assume it required a big time commitment.

“Some do, some don’t,” Gary said. “The rugs take quite a while.”

Gary’s family isn’t the only one that came together to showcase original works. Jesse Henke although setting up alone had family help with his items as well.

“[It’s] all homemade from a barn I tore down with my dad,” Henke said.

His items varied from furniture to home decorations and all made with parts from that torn down barn.

“The tin roofing, I cut out, the animal shapes and stuff like that,” Henke said. “And I built the tables with a majority of the wood. And then I used plywood and pallets for some of the other stuff too.”

Where some people use flea markets to sell original works that took, others use them to display items they may not have made themselves but invested years into nonetheless.

People like Ellen, who’s table featured many old toys from a golden era. Specifically original Barbies that would be difficult to track down now.

“[The] 70’s, 80’s is when I was collecting them,” Ellen said. “There’s a lot of them and I stuck to special ones: Easter ones, Valentine ones, Halloween, Christmas.”

Unlike Stilde, Ellen prefers to keep her business outside the eCommerce realm and besides this flea market sells them at the occasional garage sale.

This year’s flea market saw the return of a lot of veteran vendors like Ellen and some new people like Henke. But it’s not simply the commerce opportunity that keeps people coming.

“Oh you get to meet lots of different people,” Barb said.

Barb has been attending Waterloo’s Largest Flea Market as a vendor to around 5 to 6 years now. She sells a wide variety of items from antiques, to essential oils, home and beauty items. She also visits other flea markets across Iowa to sell her items.

The flea market also has its repeat customers year to year. Mother and daughter Laura and Elizabeth visited the market early Thursday morning to peruse the various vendors. Laura said they usually go for items like pictures and mirrors.

“Stuff for the house,” Laura said.

“I have a lot of regulars and I have a lot of new ones [customers],” Ellen said.

Although this year was the largest that this flea market has ever been, not all the regulars came out for this April event. Ellen’s two uncles who usually set up as vendors weren’t there this year. And yet, Sommerfelt anticipates continued growth for her flea market.

“It gets bigger and bigger,” Sommerfelt said.

The September flea market usually takes place in the third weekend, but this fall it will happen in the second weekend. The September event tends to be even busier than in spring.

“We had to move it up,” Sommerfelt said. “So hopefully, it will be a good one too!”

Information on Waterloo’s Largest Flea Market can be found on local flyers and through an accompanying Facebook event.

Cover Photo by David Izquierdo via Unsplashed

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Aerobic exercise and mindfulness

By Leziga Barikor

The benefits of mindfulness can be integrated into exercise especially the aerobic variety. Since the early 1990s there has been a rise in mindful exercise also known as mind-body exercise. There have been many studies on the benefits of mindfulness and physical exercise. By using aerobic exercises to cultivate mindfulness, people can reap both the physical and mental benefits in one.

Watch a brief interview of aerobic exercise professionals.

5 key components

According to a 2005 study, there are five key criteria for a form of exercise to be considered mindful. These are evolving principles, but can serve as helpful guidelines when considering mindful exercises.

  1. Meditative
  2. Proprioceptive
  3. Breath-centered
  4. Anatomic alignment
  5. Energy-centric

Meditative

The key component to mindful exercise is that it cultivates a mindset of mindfulness. It needs to incorporate a present moment and nonjudgmental state of self-awareness. The process itself must be the center not the goal or exercise outcome.

Proprioceptive

The simple Google definition of this aspect is: “relating to stimuli that are produced and perceived within an organism, especially those connected with the position and movement of the body. ” For an exercise to be mindful it can’t be heavily strenuous. So low to moderate level muscular activity that allows for mental focus on the muscles and movement.

Breath-centered

One of the most centering activities to cultivate mindfulness is breathing. Besides various breathing exercises, activities like yoga that emphasize breathing with movement are beneficial for cultivating mindfulness. Even in the term “aerobic” it is implied that these exercises involve or relate to breath.

Anatomic alignment

This means the physical activity must foster greater spinal alignment or a specific movement pattern.

Energy-centric

Exercises for mindfulness

There are a variety of exercises that can help cultivate mindfulness. Yoga might be well known, but there are many varieties to it as well as other options.

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Journey into Mindful Journaling

5 Tips to Mindful Journaling

By Leziga Barikor

Traveling to a new destination can be worthwhile new experience and often times seems to go by too quickly. But the memories made while vacationing can last forever. The practice of mindfulness can help people develop their memories deeper.

Fast 5 Journal Prompts

  • What do you see here that is different from home? How would you describe it without a picture?
  • What does it feel like to walk down these streets? What is it like touching the sand, the rocks, cable car railing or other applicable items? Or think of the temperature or emotions anticipating a new experience.
  • What does it smell like where you currently are whether being out in nature, by a different ocean or in a new city?
  • What are you hearing right now the hum of traffic, the waves of the ocean, ect?
  • Did you try any new foods? What was it like?

For a more in-depth look, see the my video on travel journaling below!

Mindfulness

Mindfulness can be described in various different ways, but the same themes tend to appear in the literature on it.

Jon Kabat-Zinn is a professor and the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He has published many books surrounding the topic of mindfulness and is well established authority on the topic.

Kabat-Zinn describes mindfulness as paying attention to the moment in a non-judgemental way. To be mindful is to know what is happening while it is happening. Another word to use instead of mindfulness is awareness.

The practice of mindfulness has it’s roots in Buddhism. The Buddha’s practice of mindfulness is what brought him to the point of being the “enlightened one.”

Mindfulness can also be seen as a skill which can be improved with practice. Applying mindfulness principles can increase self awareness and give people heightened mental insights.

To sum it up in Kabat-Zinn’s own words, “Wherever you go, there you are.”

Travel

When it comes to traveling, the where actually proves to make no difference to the effect of the experience. The main effect people attempt to get out of traveling or vacationing is typically more happiness. Professor Jeroen Nawijn from Breda University of Applied Sciences studied happiness as it relates to travel.

According to studies on happiness cited by Nawijn, humans can control only 40 percent of their happiness. The other 60 percent breaks down with 50 percent being genetically pre-determined and than 10 percent unintentional activities. So choosing to go on a vacation can have a significant impact on a person’s happiness levels.

Taking trips or vacationing can affect happiness through the process of the anticipation, the event and the post-trip afterglow effect. Even months later, the memories of the vacation can increase happiness.

Research is inconclusive as to whether or not people who choose to vacation more are simply happier people than people who don’t choose to go on vacations according to Nawijn’s research.

One of the ultimate conclusions to Nawijn’s study is that vacationing only had a minor affect to people’s happiness. A possible explanation for this is that in Western societies tourism is seen more as the norm and no longer consider particularly special.

Taking this research into consideration, when it comes to traveling the best way to reap the most benefits is to improve the memories made during the trip. While sustaining the positive memories of the trip, it is also important not to fall into comparison with every day life because that can lead to diminished happiness over time.

Journaling

The process of reflective writing in a journal daily can help with processing negative events and create a frame for positive thoughts to flourish.

According to M. B. Williams psychology techniques book, reflective writing helps people better understand things in life. The key to journaling is found in consistency in taking the time to write thoughtfully with a purpose each day.

Daily writing is important because patterns of behavior and thought can be captured and then later reviewed to help people predict and advert negative behaviors. It also helps to have an established record of happy days to reflect on when life gets stressful. Write for quantity not quality; journals don’t need perfect spelling, grammar or writing style.

Mindful Journaling

To journal effectively is to practice mindfulness. This calls people to be engaged observers in documenting what they see.

One way to be an observer while traveling is to look for the differences between there and home. Is the language different? Does this place celebrate different holidays? Does it differ in shopping habits, meal times, currency, accents and dialects, ways of showing respect or more?

A travel journal when done mindfully can bring out people’s creative side naturally. The work of capturing ideas, impressions, experiences, emotions, events and information can easily fall into poetic prose.

In Linda Dini Jenkins “Journaling on the road” article, she discussed the various ways travel journaling helps improve memory and enhance creativity.

Check out my video on mindful travel journaling!

“Place is a powerful force, and we’re all drawn to different kinds of places for different reasons,” Jenkins wrote.

Place indeed is a powerful force and a journal helps bring the memories of that place closer even after leaving.

A good mindful journal should not simply be a recap of the travel itinerary. It should capture scene and the essence of the most inspiring moments from the day.

One of the tips that Jenkins gives in her article to make the most out of travel journal writing is to use the five senses each day. When writing a journal treat it like detective work and investigate the new surroundings.

As Kabat-Zinn wrote, the mind is like a mirror and mindfulness allows the mind to contain, encounter and know things as they are. It is a deeper level of wakefulness during experiences that allows for a better understanding of the human condition.

Jenkins’ stated the goal of a travel journal is to primarily “capture who you are in the moment.”

Brewing Culture

The Coffee Shop Appeal

By Leziga Barikor

Coffee shops and coffee have become nearly synonymous to American culture. Coffee shops or cafes have actually grown to be known as the “Third Place” according to a study done in the Journal of Foodservice Business Research. This means for many people, after home and their workplace, coffee shops are the third most important place for them.

For many college students at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI), they don’t need to go far to find their third place. Sidecar Coffee located on the College Hill offers that service to them. But proximity is rarely the defining factor in whether or not people find enjoyment in a coffee shop.

Hospitality and coffee are closely connected whether it is at home or in a commercial setting according to the book “Coffee Culture, Destinations and Tourism” by Lee Jolliffe.

Jolliffe states that coffee offered to company and the informal nature of coffee shops, coffee houses and cafes all lends itself to the idea that coffee is connected to hospitality.

The first coffee house created dates back to Constantinople in 1534 but became popularized in the 17th and 18th centuries. The major historical and political ramifications of coffee houses in London and Paris still marks the nation today. While coffee shops have evolved through the decades, Jolliffe notes that the hospitality side of it has always stayed present.

Besides coffee, modern cafes include other amenities that foster a hospitable environment. In the study from the Journal of Foodservice Business Research, they identified four key elements to a good coffee shop which are: atmosphere, employee attitude, IT service and taste.

Atmosphere

On Wednesday, Feb. 13 two UNI students went on their very first date at Sidecar.

Seniors Trey Hitchings, a construction management major, and Sarah Koski, a psychology and criminology major, sat at a two person table and got to know one another.

Hitchings said he chose Sidecar because it was simple. The two met through mutual friends. Hitchings also noted the need for coffee during the mid-day.

A coffee shop is a casual and comfortable environment which can make it an ideal location for couples to meet for the first time.

Coffee Date

Sidecar barista and UNI sophomore elementary education major Meredith Luke has seen many coffee dates.

“I think very much the environment has a huge effect on it,” Luke said. “It’s also really close to campus, so it’s an easy way to get here.”

Luke has worked at Sidecar since August 2018, and she has visited the coffee shop herself prior to working there.

Luke describes the atmosphere of Sidecar as friendly, welcoming and “chill.”

“Everyone I see [on coffee dates] it seems like the people walk out pretty content and happy,” Luke said.

Dates are just one way coffee shops can be used by customers, but there are many more reasons people choose to visit one.

Luke said she has seen people go to Sidecar for interviews, just hang out or do homework.

IT Services/ Technology

Friends Hailey Gross and Darcy Bertolino spend an afternoon catching up with life together. Gross is a senior art education major, and Bertolino is a junior journalism and exercise science major.

They were one example out of many where friends meet up at Sidecar to spend time together and/or get homework done.

This is where modern coffee shops have the responsibility of providing good technology services which includes WiFi services, computer and phone outlets and desk space.

WiFi or Internet access has become a necessary service for coffee shops and several studies cited in the article published in the Journal of Foodservice Business Research, concluded that it enhanced service quality. Customers of coffee shops and restaurants reacted more positively to stores that provided free WiFi.

Employee Attitude

Customer service is one of the key elements to any business venture and that is especially the case for coffee shops. The barista is the face of the coffee shop, so how customers receive their interactions with them is crucial when deciding whether or not they will return again.

The study done validated research cited that positive employee attitudes affected the customer satisfaction.

Patrons to Sidecar Coffee appear to be fortunate in the area of employee attitude.

The workers are genuinely some of the sweetest people I’ve ever met in life.

Meredith Luke, barista

“The workers are genuinely some of the sweetest people I’ve ever met in my life,” Luke said. “Honestly, I love them so much. They make coming to work so much more enjoyable and fun.”

Luke said she also enjoys the management Sidecar is under, and she had one of her favorite moments at the store as an employee.

“We did this thing called ‘Palentines,’ it’s like celebrating Valentines, but as pals,” Luke said. “It’s close to a gift exchange.”

According to Luke, in this all staff event, people pulled names out of a hat and bought corresponding gifts for the person whose name was chosen.

“It was just a lot of fun because we were able to come together as co-workers and enjoy being with each other,” Luke said.

Taste / Coffee Quality

The final key element to any successful coffee shop is the taste. When coffee is the main menu item of the establishment, it needs to be done right.

“I know a lot of people like the coffee. That’s what they’ve told me,” Luke said. “That’s why they like coming here.”

“I know a lot of people like the coffee. That’s what they’ve told me,” Luke said. “That’s why they like coming here.”

The study showed that the higher the coffee quality the higher the levels of customer satisfaction were at the coffee shop.

Brewing Hospitality

The contemporary cafe culture is recent to this century, but the $8 billion industry did not grow over night.

Wherever people have gathered to share coffee whether it was in a house or in a store, the aura of hospitality followed. This model for success first grew in booming Constantinople and followed traders to Europe.

One of the main selling points that keeps the coffee shop industry in motion is actually its diversity.

This is diversity in mode. Coffee shops are useful to students who need a caffeinated place to study. But they also provide good neutral ground for meetings and dates. And for the early morning commuter, they have the caffeine and bakery items needed to properly start the day.

Brewing Culture

The diversity in purpose to coffee shops keeps people coming in and out of the doors. Whether someone is searching for a place to stop and meet a friend or hears about one word of mouth, coffee shops draw the audiences who need them.

The culture surrounding coffee actually transcends American culture and connects the broader global community. Coffee shops may very well be the universal spot to show hospitality.

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