I loved this recent article on National Public Radio:
In Japan, the country that has the highest population density in the world but also vast expanses of green forests (about 3,000 miles of them), an ancient tradition tries to balance out the crush from urban living. It’s known as shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing.” It’s the practice of spending prolonged periods of time with trees in order to gain from their many health benefits. In a book hitting shelves this month, Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health And Happiness, Dr. Qing Li, the world’s foremost expert in forest medicine, introduces readers to the healing practice of forest bathing — and the art and science of how trees can enrich your life.
What the article goes on to say is that books author has numerous scientific studies showing the benefits of trees and nature on mental health.
Honestly, I don’t think that is terribly surprising. It feels instinctive that getting out into nature is good for our hearts and minds. What I think is surprising is how few people do. We are fortunate to live in Michigan where there is a wide variety of beautiful natural places to chose from, from forests to rivers, to beaches to The Great Lakes. There are 7 national parks in the mitten state, plus so many county, city, and state parks. There are hiking trails, bike paths, and urban green spaces.
I have been a recreational walker for years. I enjoy walking on my lunch hours and my canine companions and I have covered many, many miles before and after work. Walking is one of my favorite ways of meditation. I also feel that daily walks connect me to nature and the changing seasons.
The more we spend time indoors with artificial lights and digital screens, the more getting outside and getting a breath of fresh air becomes important. According to the article, it doesn’t require full immersion in nature. You don’t have to get lost in the woods. Just being around houseplants or aromatherapy tree scented oils can even perk up our mood.
I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately on how diet can affect mood. And now I see this article, with scientific studies, about how getting out in nature can help as well. I feel like people are looking for more holistic ways to manage their own health care. Obviously, we need allopathic medicine for chronic and severe conditions, but I like the idea that there are some natural steps we can take to mitigate problems in the beginning.
As I write this, we are experiencing some pretty chilly weather here in Michigan. But as my trail runner friends say, there is no such thing as bad weather – only bad gear. Get out there and enjoy the great outdoors – it’s good for you.
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