Have you heard of it?
It may not be what you think…… And apparently there is science to back it up. (And several books written about it)
Before about a week ago “forest bathing” was not in my vocabulary, although the idea and practice of it, or something like it has been a driving force in my life for as long as I can remember. Something that regularly pulled me back and drew me in, to go back to nature and off grid. To be enveloped in the fragrant, lush, deep woods, the sounds and scents, rivers of cedar water, moss and pine trees. I always feel a sort of “reset” take place physically and emotionally when I get outside surrounded by creation.
But last week something incredible happened. It certainty wasn’t the first time. But maybe it just had been too long since the last encounter that made this excursion illuminate how desperately I need this connection. How it fills and refreshes on so many levels
A simple kayak trip has changed the way I look at our connection to nature. It is one of our favorite spots, yet this time I took notice of what was going on inside me (honestly it was so overwhelming, I had no other choice but to take notice). There was this pealing away of all that is so trivial, all the noise. As we headed down the white sandy dirt road, the pine trees and wild blueberry bushes got thicker and thicker along the way. Beautiful flowering plants popping up to greet us as if we are some kind of royalty they have been expecting all along. Here they were, out in the middle of nowhere, with no one to tend to them and yet they were thriving with life, beauty and purpose. All of my planning, all of my busyness could not have produced one drop of what this forest had to offer up to me at no cost or doing of my own.
We dropped our kayak in the cool river water that ran alongside this forest road, me still feeling the ups and downs of pms setting in and my husband feeling fatigued and both of us still carrying the weight and worries of life swirling around in our minds. We paddled slowly out into the river, where it is wide open, lily pads growing wherever they like, trees lining it on every side. (we were literally floating through the middle of a forest)
We made our way towards the narrow, winding section of the river. The trees tower like a canopy overhead, an archway of an entrance. All around we were embraced by mossy river banks and sandy white coves along the river. The outside world seemed to slip away like a distant memory. Surrounded by the sound of the river lapping against the kayak, the smell of the cedar water and pine trees, this is aroma therapy at its finest. Emotional balance and calm settled in my spirit. Life outside of the forest seemed somehow artificial, and this, this was the real thing. This is living. This is where we thrive. Even the air seemed more “real” somehow. We passed turtles sunbathing on logs floating on the river. And layer by layer we put off the material world. We discussed God and creation, purpose & meaning. Overwhelmed with gratitude, joy and contentment as the current of the river whisked us along its windy waters. I can not put into words fully what happened that day. But we could feel it. And it’s affects lasted well after we left the river and the forest.
A few days later I found myself googling the benefits of being outdoors and that is when I stumbled upon this term “forest bathing”. And it resonated with me. That is what we had done. We had bathed our lungs, our skin our eyes, even our minds and emotions in all that this enveloping forest had to offer. I am no expert in this, nor do I fully know all the ins and outs of this theory, but what I did find was pretty incredible.
The Department of Environmental Conservation states: “Exposure to forests boosts our immune system. While we breathe in the fresh air, we breathe in phytoncides, airborne chemicals that plants give off to protect themselves from insects. Phytoncides have antibacterial and antifungal qualities which help plants fight disease. When people breathe in these chemicals, our bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells or NK. These cells kill tumor- and virus-infected cells in our bodies. In one study, increased NK activity from a 3-day, 2-night forest bathing trip lasted for more than 30 days. Japanese researchers are currently exploring whether exposure to forests can help prevent certain kinds of cancer. “
” Exposure to forests and trees:
- boosts the immune system
- lowers blood pressure
- reduces stress
- improves mood
- increases ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
- accelerates recovery from surgery or illness
- increases energy level
- improves sleep ” https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/90720.html
“Go to a Forest. Walk slowly. Breathe. Open all your senses.
This is the healing way of Shinrin-yoku Forest Therapy,
the medicine of simply being in the forest. “shinrin-yoku.org
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