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forestwalk2Many of us Scarsdalians live a fast paced lifestyle that can often leaves us trying to find ways to de-stress and deal with anxiety. To help find a sense of calm, maybe you’ve tried yoga, meditation, mindfulness, or even practiced gratitude, but have you ever tried forest bathing? Don’t break out the bath bubbles just yet! While a cool swim in the middle of the woods does seem like it would be relaxing, you don’t have to jump in a lake to practice forest bathing. Rather, forest bathing is simply a practice of disconnecting from technology and using all of your senses to bathe in the atmosphere of nature. Sounds easy right? And it is! No need for a strenuous hike up Bear Mountain to start alleviating stress, you can simply find a quiet spot to sit comfortably and tune in to the wondrous sights, sounds, and feelings of nature. Listen the crickets chirping, feel the wind against your skin, watch the trees sway in the breeze and start feeling the healing effects of a forest bath.

Not quite convinced that a forest bath will leave you feeling footloose and fancy free? Well, forest bathing as a practice to ease stress and other harmful side effects of modern day living, was first made popular in Japan in the early 1980’s. After much research, Japanese scientists found the healing effects of spending quality time in nature to be so powerful that they launched a national program to encourage Shinrin-yoku or forest bathing across their nation. Additionally, according to shinrin-yoku.org, Shinrin-yoku has also “become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine”. As stated by Dr. Qing Li, author of Forest Bathing; How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, some of the healing effects of spending time in a forest include:

-reduced stress, anxiety, and anger levels
-a strengthened immune system
-improved cardiovascular and metabolic health
-improved overall well-being

So the next time you’re feeling stressed out about an approaching deadline, or your kids are anxious about an upcoming test, or you simply need a break from all the screen time, grab your loved ones and head to the forest for some Shinrin-yoku. Below are a few of my family’s favorite places to de-stress:

-Hart’s Brook Park and Preserve
156 Ridge Rd, Hartsdale, NY 10530

-Cranberry Lake Preserve
1609 Old Orchard St, West Harrison, NY 10604

-Rockefeller State Park Preserve
125 Phelps Way, Pleasantville, NY 10570

Wendy MacMillan is a former teacher and a proud mom of two children. While her background is in psychology and education, Wendy was recently trained in mindfulness at Mindfulschools.org. She has long been passionate about wellness, and as an active member of the Scarsdale PTA, Wendy helped to bring mindfulness to her children's elementary school. In addition, Wendy helped establish and is an acting member of the school's Wellness Committee. For more information about mindfulness check out this site: mindfulschools.org or Watch the video of Jon Kabat-Zinn explaining what mindfulness is ... or contact Wendy MacMillan at wendymacmillan@gmail.com.

sunsetThanksgiving in July? If it can lead us on a path to emotional well-being, then yes please! No, stuffing ourselves silly with too much turkey and mashed potatoes probably won’t lead to blissful, life contentment, but taking the time to reflect on, and give voice to the things in our lives we feel thankful for just might! Recent studies show that practicing daily acts of gratitude can actually make us feel happier and more content. According to the Yale Center of Emotional Intelligence, “More than any other personality trait, gratitude is strongly linked to mental health and life satisfaction. Grateful people experience more joy, love, and enthusiasm, and they enjoy protection from destructive emotions like envy, greed, and bitterness. Gratitude also reduces lifetime risk for depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders, and it helps people entangled with those and other problems to heal and find closure. It can give you a deep and steadfast trust that goodness exists, even in the face of uncertainty or suffering”.

We all know how easy it is to get bogged down by the everyday stressors in our lives and to become more stressed when we look for or focus on all the bad, negative situations around us. On the other hand, the more we look for the positive happenings and little blessings, the easier it becomes to take notice of and appreciate all of the wonderful and rewarding parts of our lives. In other words, being grateful doesn’t depend on our circumstances but rather a state of mind and actively choosing to pay attention and appreciate the small things in life.

The great thing about practicing gratitude? It’s super easy to do on your own, at home, in the office, or while spending time with family. Yes, you could go out and buy a gratitude journal, but you could also just start with feeling thankful for a restful night’s sleep, a sunny day for your commute into the city, or a nice meal shared with loved ones. Still need a little help getting started? Here are three easy practices you can try today:

Giving thanks at meal times. This is something my family and I practice on a nightly basis. As we sit down to dinner together, we go around the table and each person gives voice to something they feel grateful for. Yes, many times I hear “Tacos, I feel thankful for tacos” and that’s ok! Remember it’s appreciating the small things in life that leads to greater life satisfaction!

Write a thank you letter. Did someone do something kind for you or someone in your family? Let them know how much you appreciate it and write them a note of thanks. Not only will this help you appreciate the goodness you are surrounded by, but will strengthen your relationships too!

Keep a gratitude journal. Yes this is a tried and true practice but it really helps to get us in the habit of reflecting on what we’re grateful for. Many people keep a small journal by their bed so that at the end of each day they can write about three things they feel thankful for.

So O.K., November and turkey dinners seem like a long way off, but Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be! Begin to improve your well-being during the hot steamy days of summer by practicing gratitude! For more information on the benefits of gratitude please see this article by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

Wendy MacMillan is a former teacher and a proud mom of two children. While her background is in psychology and education, Wendy was recently trained in mindfulness at Mindfulschools.org. She has long been passionate about wellness, and as an active member of the Scarsdale PTA, Wendy helped to bring mindfulness to her children's elementary school. In addition, Wendy helped establish and is an acting member of the school's Wellness Committee. For more information about mindfulness check out this site: mindfulschools.org or Watch the video of Jon Kabat-Zinn explaining what mindfulness is ... or contact Wendy MacMillan at wendymacmillan@gmail.com.

StanleyAn early morning call from a Dunham Road woman lead to the arrest of a man for larceny and criminal mischief for entering parked cars and stealing the contents.

At about 7 am on Wednesday, June 19th police received from a call from a resident reporting suspicious activity in the area of Dunham Road. She said she saw a man wearing blue shorts and a dark jacket entering a vehicle and taking property.

Scarsdale Patrol Officers arrived in the area shortly after the call was received and located a suspect that matched the caller’s description.

The suspect, who was identified as 26 year-old Stanley Dejesuscruz, was found to be in possession of stolen property taken from numerous vehicles in Scarsdale. Further investigation revealed that the suspect also damaged a vehicle while attempting to enter it.

The suspect was arrested, charged with Larceny and Criminal Mischief, arraigned in Scarsdale Village Court and remanded to Westchester County Jail.

cloudwatchThe warm days of summer are finally here! And for many Scarsdalians this means the kids are off to camp, barbeques with friends, and maybe even some adventurous travel. For others though, summer means entertaining kids that are home from school and hot days with steamy commutes to the city. Whatever summer has in store for you, there is a great way to help “keep your cool” ...practicing mindfulness!

Jon Kabat Zinn defines mindfulness as: “Paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” With time, people who practice mindfulness learn to slow down or stop brain chatter and automatic or habitual reactions, experiencing the present moment as it really is.

According to Mindfulschools.org, when we consistently practice mindfulness we can “strengthen the parts of the brain that help us improve attention, regulate our emotions including a better ability to engage in tasks even when emotions are activated, demonstrate greater compassion both for self and for others, reduce feelings of stress and improve anxiety and distress when placed in a stressful social situation.”

Ready to give it a try? Here are three easy exercises perfect for summertime that you can do on your own or practice with the whole family:

Mindful Breathing:

First, sit down in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Next, take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale out through your mouth. Turn all of your attention to your breath. How does your breath feels as you draw it into yourself, and then as it leaves. Place a hand on your belly and feel the rise and fall of your breath. Your mind may start to wander while you are breathing and that’s OK! Let the thoughts go and bring your attention back to your breathing. Do this about five times – five inhales, five exhales. Try to take notice of how your body feels after you have completed your five breaths. And for a more enhanced experience, find a beautiful spot outside and breath in the fresh summer air!

Mindful Walking:

Whether you are walking to catch the train or you’ve found a beautiful spot to walk in nature, we can easily practice mindful walking in any environment. As you begin your walk, first start with some mindful breathing and focus on your inhales and exhales. Then turn your attention to anything else your senses tune into in the moment – How does the air feel moving against you? What sounds do you hear around you? How does your body feel as you move? Give your complete attention to the sensations you are experiencing. Again, if your mind begins to wander and you begin thinking about what you need to get from the grocery store, gently let the thoughts pass and bring your attention back to the experiences of your walk.

Mindful Watching:

This is a perfect exercise for the whole family to try on a warm summer's day. Find a comfortable spot to lay down outside where you can turn your attention to the clouds in the sky. After laying down, take a few deep, mindful breaths and feel your body relax against the ground. Next pick a cloud in the sky and give it your full attention. Continue watching the cloud as it floats through the sky and try to keep your focus on the cloud. If other thoughts start to enter your mind, gently let the thoughts go as you bring your attention back to your floating cloud. Try this for a few minutes and when you're done, take notice of how your body feels. Do you feel more relaxed? Do you feel more grounded?

So whether you are an empty-nester or you're chasing your preschooler around the Scarsdale pool, remember to stay cool with mindfulness!

Wendy MacMillan is a former teacher and a proud mom of two children. While her background is in psychology and education, Wendy was recently trained in mindfulness at Mindfulschools.org. She has long been passionate about wellness, and as an active member of the Scarsdale PTA, Wendy helped to bring mindfulness to her children's elementary school. In addition, Wendy helped establish and is an acting member of the school's Wellness Committee. For more information about mindfulness check out this site: mindfulschools.org or Watch the video of Jon Kabat-Zinn explaining what mindfulness is ... or contact Wendy MacMillan at wendymacmillan@gmail.com.

LetsGetReadyPicLet's Get Ready, a nonprofit founded by Scarsdale alumni to level the playing field in college access, is recruiting college students (or '19 high school or college grads) to volunteer 1-2 evening per week this summer as College Coaches, providing FREE SAT prep and college application advising to low income high school students in Mount Vernon, White Plains New Rochelle, Stamford, and NYC.

-Volunteers teach either Math or Reading/Writing sections of the SAT 1-2 evenings per week and are provided with training, curricula, and support.

- Volunteers must attend training on June 18 or 21 and be available to teach one evening per week from June 19-Aug. 8. (Great to do after work or internship!)

Let’s Get Ready responds to a crisis in access to college and opportunity. A student from a low-income family with an A average in high school is only as likely to go to college as a child with a C- average from an upper-income family, and nationally, only 16% of low-income students who enroll in college actually graduate. This leads to persistent intergenerational inequality and poverty as a person who graduates from college will earn more than $1million more over their lifetime than someone with just a high school degree and their children are twice as likely to go to college.

Let’s Get Ready is a nonprofit founded by seven SHS alums who were in college and home for the summer in 1998. They realized that they were near experts in college admissions having invested tremendous time in their applications and SAT prep, and that while that knowledge was now useless to them, it could benefit younger students who could not afford costly SAT prep or who didn’t have parents who went to college and were familiar with the process. They pooled their knowledge and and began teaching a group of 30 students SAT prep and offering college application help in a Mount Vernon church basement. Let’s Get Ready continued and evolved and now through year-round campus-community partnerships from Maine to Philadelphia offers help for students applying to college and also support and mentoring once they are in college to help ensure that they graduate. The organization is celebrating its 20th Anniversary and has helped 33,000 deserving high school students get to college with great results. 92% of LGR students enroll in college after high school and they graduate at 5x the rate of low-income students overall.

Melika Forbes, a student that first summer who got into Syracuse University in part thanks to raising her SAT scores 200 points in the program went on to join Teach For America. She then went to law school and is now General Counsel for the charter school network Achievement First “Let’s Get Ready opened opportunity for me and has influenced nearly all my life choices,” Melika wrote.

The impact on many of Let’s Get Ready’s volunteer College Coaches has also been profound as many go on to careers in education or public service and often cite Let’s Get Ready as the experience that ignited their passion.

For information and to apply to volunteer: www.letsgetready.org/coach

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