Health Benefits Of Just Being In A Forest
In the concrete jungles we race back and forth lost in an urgent and pressing desire to get.....but to get what? Mostly, we have forgotten, lost in an overwhelming bombardment of stimuli and demands, only stopping to question our own madness when we finally hit a wall.
Nature has always been the place we instinctively head to for relaxation and reconnection. I should know, when I finally hit my wall with stage 3 ovarian cancer I headed to the forest, set up home and started my own retreat to help others do the same.
Fifteen years later despite my survival stats of 17% I'm still here and feeling happier and healthier than ever. Now there have been research results released by Metla (The Finnish Forest Research Institute) on the physical and mental impacts of spending time in the forest, confirming what many of us already intuitively knew.
Finland is the most forested country in Europe with predominantly coniferous forests covering 76% of the land area (10% of Finland is lakes), other common trees include birch, aspen, rowan and alder). Finnish forests account for 11% of Europe's forests.
Research shows that even 5 minutes in the forest improves your mood, whilst 20 minutes daily will lower your blood pressure and increase your sense of vitality.
Combined research from England (a country severely lacking in forest) confirms that forests have an impact on children's allergies, as children get beneficial bacteria on their skin whilst playing in the forest - take note all those parents who scrub their children in bacteria killing agents!
Research would also seem to indicate that merely looking out of the window at the forest will in some way clear the mind. This is a point I have been aware of for many years as I post so many forest photographs online and get amazing responses from people.
In the Northern Shamanic traditions trees and forests are transformers of human spirit, we breathe out carbon dioxide which the forest transforms into oxygen which we breathe in. This effortless cycle reflects the spiritual cycle wherein we walk amongst the trees releasing our stresses and tensions, letting go our deepest fears and concerns which the forest transforms into pure light energy which we in turn absorb.
Every morning I walk through the forest with my dog feeling the physical benefits and effortlessly receiving many insights and inspirations. Personally, I couldn't recommend it highly enough!
"...the human eye is extremely sensitive to the colour green.....
......were it not for trees and vegetation we would see little or no green at all. For us, green is a very soothing, healing colour, having a sedative effect on the nervous system and psyche, and if it does not form part of our general life, we can become irritable and indeed violent."
Living Energies - Callum Coates
When walking through the forest stress just dissolves and falls away naturally as you inhale the forest scents, hear relaxing noises (if you've never listened to the breeze in pine trees you are really missing out on one of life's real simple pleasures), drink in the awesome landscapes and when you are really lucky, sample the tastes of the forest berries and mushrooms.
Just sitting in the forest brings amazing benefits so when you add in the additional benefits from physical activity such as walking just imagine how good you'll feel!
Studies done with obese men uninterested in exercise but concerned about weight gain showed that the forest motivated them about weight management. Walking in the forest wasn't seen as "exercise" and so they happily took part. The time spent in the forest increased their own self awareness such that they were touched by that soft strength that encourages us to be unconditionally loving to self and thus lift ourselves out of many self created stresses.
As a result there was marked weight loss and an increase in well-being.
In her book 'Light Emerging' Barbara Brennan states that "The trees in a pine forest pulsate at a rate very similar to a human's auric field. Sitting in such a forest will recharge your field when you need it"
The health benefits of being in the forest have been so well known to the Japanese for such a long time that they even have their own word for it! The Japanese word Shinrin-yoku means "taking in the forest atmosphere or forest breathing"
A huge amount of scientific research has been conducted and is still ongoing into the evidence and reasons behind such wonderful effects. You can read up about the various research methods and results at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2793347/
So instead of renewing your gym membership how about taking a walk/cycle/drive out to your nearest forest and just walk whilst your mind calms and your body restores itself to balance.
Sara is a natural healer based in the Finnish forest, who has been working with self healing techniques including shamanic healing, natural plants and herbal lore, reiki, energy healing, Thai traditional yoga massage and foot reflexology for the past 15 years since her own recovery from stage 3 ovarian cancer. She resides and works from Mairela Retreat