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Enjoying that prescription for happiness
THEY LOOK READY to enjoy another outdoor day with Jane. Dogs know all about the good times and so does Jane, who explains a bit about it in her column.

For years, until it became too brittle and faded, I had a small sheet of notebook paper tacked to the frame of my front door with these words scrawled on it: 

Prescription for Happiness: Mind my own business and walk at least two miles a day in the woods.

Simple, right? Not necessarily.

To be clear, the walking part is easy for me because I have three energetic dogs who know they get to go on daily W-A-L-K-Sand to do so they get to go in the C-A-R.

The benefits from hiking in the woods on a dirt trail, with only the sounds and sights of nature, are so powerful that a relatively new phenomenon has sprung up. Shinrin-yoku, forest bathing, started in Japan in the 1980s and has become popular all over the world as nature’s therapy. A quick search shows dozens of resorts that offer this service in the United States and abroad.

At one swanky spa in the Southwest, you can immerse in a natural forest setting, guided by a certified Shinrin-yoku facilitator, for the modest fee of $170 for 60 minutes or $230 for 90. The service is available to both the novice and advanced forest bather.

The spa also offers an experience called ‘Feet in the Creek.’ A masseuse escorts you to the creek, guides you to step into the water, and encourages you to breathe in the clear air and listen to the tranquility of the creek. Afterword, the masseuse will rinse your feet and massage them, all for $170 an hour.

If I sound skeptical, I assure you it has nothing to do with the many benefits of getting outdoors in the woods. It has more to do with the travel, the money, and the hype.

But I digress. The first part of the prescription for happiness is what I want to focus on. I don’t think of myself as a busybody, but I can be. I notice who has what political sign displayed in their front yard, who has beehives in their backyard, who leaves their bikes out and who puts them inside for the night.

I don’t want to be like that, but I am. It’s a habit, and converting to “I don’t care,” aka minding my own business, will take time, attention, and repeated practice.

When you live on a narrow country road, focusing on staying on the road should take up your whole brain space. For me, it doesn’t. 

Often, I’m cruising home with my window open and my left arm dangling out, and the dogs have their heads out the back windows. The radio is turned off and, top end, I’m traveling 5 mph. (My neighbors mindthis lackadaisical driving of mine.) I’m watching for flowers, fungus, and the occasional owl, hawk, fox, snake or muskrat.

Here is where I fail. I can’t help but notice the neighbors’ yards and houses. I register who’s out working in the garden, who recently cut their grass, and who has recycling bins on their porch. Half the time. I’m studying porch stain choices and house paint colors, or envying anyone who has one of those cool screened-in gazebos. I’m certain this nosiness counts as notminding my own business.

While trying to stay at home this summer, I’ve had plenty of time to think about my prescription for happiness. Even though the original note has long since been taken down, the words have stayed ingrained in the deepest part of me. 

I’m grateful that the first part of it comes easy—that I bathe in the forest for free most days of my life. I need to work harder on focusing solely on the flora and fauna straddling my road. I must mind my own business.

Meanwhile, maybe I should start offering soul-soothing forest bathing experiences. I have a creek in my backyard with plenty of surrounding woods, and even a nature-made hidey hole for bathing one’s feet.

After all, I want you to be happy too. Wink wink.