Fauns, elves, pixies, ghouls, trolls – the image of forests and woodlands arouse many feelings of mystery and intrigue. Not only do forests bring to mind mythical creatures, but they’re also the home of countless folklore tales and superstitions. Did you know that the Druids and the Germanic Pagans used to worship trees? No wonder the forest, in all its ethereal splendor, is the perfect place for us to take solitary strolls.
Interestingly, forests also provide the perfect place to holistically heal ourselves. All our daily tensions, struggles and woes can perish through some simple forest therapy. We all have forests, bush-lands, and woodlands near us. But how can we make the best out of these erudite ecosystems? You’ll find some suggestions below.
Go “Forest Bathing” (Shinrin Yoku)
Photo by: Doug Brown
This eccentric practice is believed by many Japanese people to enhance the immune system. And it’s scientifically proven as well. Just taking a short stroll through the forest or woodland can make you stronger and healthier. This is because the essential wood oils emitted in the air called phytoncides increase the number of killer cells in your body. These killer cells in turn help fight sickness and disease, like cancer, keeping you fit and fighting.
Interestingly, in 1982 the Forest Agency of Japan went so far as proposing forest bathing should be included in a healthy lifestyle. The Japanese have loved the practice of Shinrin Yoku so much that their companies are now tying in Forest Bathing to employee health benefits. So why not give Forest Bathing a go? You’ll find there are many benefits for the senses:
Sounds such as the whisper of wind, rustle of leaves, songs of a bird and the sound of streams have been proven to soothe the mind and therefore the brain activity. This reduces blood pressure significantly.
Just seeing the scenes of a forest has been proven to decrease heart rate, blood pressure and increase feelings of calmness and joy.
As they say “there’s something magic in the air“, and the smells of a forest can have astounding effects on the body. Walking through a forest has physiological effects which decrease blood pressure, anxiety, depression, as well as slowing breathing rates and clearing the mind. And all thanks to the aromatherapeutic benefits of the wood oil phytoncides.
Forest Bathing is also said to reduce stress, lower blood sugar levels, increase mental concentration and decrease pain. Not bad for a stroll in the woods.
Go Tree Hugging
Although constantly ridiculed and maligned to this very day, tree hugging is a scientifically valid practice. Often ridden off as the practice of hippies and crackpots, tree hugging is actually a proven way of soothing the body.
Firstly, we know that at its core, every atom vibrates. And every object possessing these atoms vibrates at different frequencies. As explored by Matthew Silverstone in his book Blinded by Science, trees have unique vibrational patterns which cause positive changes in our biological behaviors when touched.
It’s been proven for instance, that drinking a glass of water treated with 10Hz vibration immediately changes blood coagulation rates. So next time you’re near a tree, expect to literally receive good vibrations.
The act of hugging itself is also beneficial. Hugging increases levels of the hormone oxytocin. This hormone is responsible for the feelings of calmness and emotional bonding. Giving a hug also releases the hormones serotonin and dopamine, that are responsible for making you happier. Hugging a tree is a breath of fresh air. Literally.
The freshest air you can breathe is under a tree. This is because a trees leaves serve as filters of the the air, removing dust and providing you with cleaner air. The health benefits of breathing cleaner air are: enhanced digestion, lower blood pressure, and a happier mood. Trees are more connected to the earth than any of us, yet we rip them up, chop them down and generally annihilate them. Why not give one of them a hug?
Go Talk to a Tree
Trees are the best counselors. They are quiet, good at listening, trustworthy, and entirely free. As Adam Ford put it in his book Seeking Silence in a Noisy World who best to go, to unload our silent burdens and thoughts? The benefits are a sense of non-judgement, mental clarity and emotional cleansing by exploring thoughts and emotions, and a sense of psychological unburdening, causing us to feel lighter and brighter.
So why not find a special and wise tree and befriend it? Make sure the tree is out of earshot however, its best to avoid eavesdroppers.
Go Talk to Yourself
Once again, the act of talking to yourself is frequently looked down on as being potty and demented. However, research has shown that there are many benefits to this seemingly bazaar practice.
The forest is the perfect place to self-talk. It’s quiet, calm, and there are usually little to no people, meaning that you don’t risk judgement, which causes mental tension. Not only does self-talk unburden our minds and put situations in perspective, but it helps us to befriend ourselves as well.
As a study from Nottingham Trent and George Mason university found; self-talk decreases stress levels as well as increases self confidence. When we get into the habit of talking aloud, we feel more motivated to voice our thoughts and participate in discussions. Self-talk is perfect for timid, reserved and introverted people in particular. It gives us the freedom to express out innermost thoughts and feelings unfiltered and unhindered. For those who keep private diaries, self-talk is even more therapeutic. So next time you take a solitary stroll into the forest, let your thoughts and emotions fly free! Shout, scream, cry and laugh – at your own pleasure!
From the kooky practice of Forest Bathing and tree hugging, to talking to trees and talking to ourselves, forests provide the perfect place for holistic healing. If you have any more loopy suggestions, quick! Let me know below.