My brother Dean and I grew up mostly in Alberta provincial parks. During my most formative years, as Dean is younger, we lived west of Rocky Mountain House at beautiful Crimson Lake. I literally grew up in the bush. Surrounded by lush forest, I reveled in walking through the trees in summer and snowmobiling through them in winter. It was magical.
Our adult lives took us to various places, me to the Cayman Islands where I lived for seven years, and my brother to Japan where he lived for fifteen years. Because of his time there, Dean has taught me a little about Japan, including about forest bathing. While most Japanese are city dwellers, they understand the health benefits of being in the midst of trees. Intuitively, I think we all know walking amongst the trees is good for us, but the Japanese understand the science.
The Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku – literally, forest bath – has the power to strengthen our immune system, reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, eliminate brain fog, and improve our sleep. Phytoncides, the aroma of the forest, are immune-boosting, stress reducing chemicals secreted by trees and plants. A simple walk in a park or forest exposes us to these chemicals and can lower cortisol levels, and boost well-being, improve mood and feelings of health and robustness. These chemicals prompt our immune system to increase production of natural killer cells, which mediate anti-tumour and anti-viral responses in the body.
Forest bathing also “catalyzes increased parasympathetic nervous system activity, which promotes relaxation, conserves energy, and slows down the heart rate while increasing intestinal and gland activity.” It also reduces the activity of sympathetic nerves associated with “fight or flight” reactions to stress. No wonder I loved and still love walking through a forest!
Make time for yourself each week with a little forest bath. Forest bathing is not exercise, or hiking, or jogging. Leave the camera and phone behind, and detach from all the things constantly vying for our attention. Go to a nearby park or garden – anywhere there are trees. Walk aimlessly and slowly. Take in the smells, sights, and sounds; feel the trunk of a tree. Simply “be” in nature and savour the benefits of your forest bath.
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With Love, Corinne ❤️