A Walk In The Woods: Unplug, recharge and heal by experiencing the forest
We've all had the feeling at some point: exhausted, drained, worn-out. Modern life can be busy and is often filled with flashy and loud stimulation. Every day in our world, things clamor for our attention. Phones, gaming consoles, social media, and television have transformed how we connect with one another in amazing ways. Yet, this tech also has a habit of putting us under persistent stress and feeling like we need to be doing, doing, doing.
At times we may experience isolation, relationship difficulties, struggles at work, financial concerns, tension with your work-life balance, or grief and trauma have you feeling overcome by stress and emotion.
Between the noisy messaging clamoring for our attention and stressors of modern life, many people understandably feel overwhelmed.
I believe there is healing for all of us, and one path on this journey can start in the forest.
Benefits of walking in the forest.
Forest therapy, sometimes called forest bathing, is a growing movement in mental health supported by decades of evidence-based research demonstrating the many physical and mental health benefits of spending time in nature. Scientific studies consistently reveal that immersion in the forest effectively treats various mental health concerns, including anxiety, stress, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and ADHD. (learn more)
Forest bathing (Shrinin-Yoku) is a Japanese practice of immersing yourself in the forest and mindfully experiencing nature through your senses. One of the transforming elements about being in nature is that even though it is so quiet and calming, it is actually tremendously stimulating. The stimulating properties of the forest are proven to help reduce stress and provide healing to our lives.
Perhaps you've experienced some calming effects of aromatherapy. When we walk in the woods, we are "bathing" in the higher oxygen concentration in the forest air. The trees release unique compounds into the air, called phytoncides, and inhaling these natural essential oils provides rejuvenating benefits to the human mind, body, and spirit. (check out more)
Here are just a few physical and mental benefits of forest therapy highlighted in the research:
Stimulates a pleasant mood.
Decreases level of cortisol levels (fewer stress hormones!).
Increases relaxation (reduced stress hormone cortisol).
Lowers blood pressure.
Promotes better sleep.
Boosts the immune system's functioning.
Balances parts of the nervous system (parasympathetic and sympathetic), helping decrease tension, anxiety, and fatigue.
Improves cognitive capacity.
Increased feelings of gratitude and awe.
Let's take a walk in the woods.
One of the reasons I love forest therapy for mental health is because the forest naturally does so much for our holistic health and perfectly pairs with the advantages of talk therapy. Combining mindfulness practices, trauma-informed bilateral stimulation, and spending time outside in nature forest bathing can provide significant health support.
The benefits of a day walking in the woods outside are tremendous! These body/mind-connection interventions help you process and grow more holistically. It sounds so simple, and yet many people find it hard to slow down. When we are feeling swamped, it becomes easy to go entire weeks without noticing feelings beyond anger, loneliness, or disconnection. Mindful time in the woods allows us to slow down and show up for ourselves in ways where we feel more alive and experience feelings of appreciation and gratitude.
Where to begin with Forest Therapy/Forest Bathing?
Forest bathing is not just for the wilderness-lover. It can be integrated through a simple practice of walking in any natural environment and consciously connecting with the here-and-now of what's around you.
So to start, find a forest or green area near you and follow a trail into the woods. If you're in Miami County, here are some excellent places to start:
Bruckner Nature Center (Troy)
Charleston Falls Preserve (Tipp City)
Duke Park (Troy)
Garbry Big Woods Sanctuary (Piqua)
Troy City Park
Once on the trail and surrounded by the forest, stop, close your eyes, and mindfully engage your senses. Note the smell of the forest, the sounds of the birds, feel the air move across your skin. Listen to the leaves beneath your feet. Feel the sun on your skin and the leaves crunching under your feet. Notice the wind blowing the trees and observe the flow of a stream. Go into your body and notice how this is for you.
If navigating your way through a forest bathing experience seems a little overwhelming, and you are interested in a more structured experience, I'd love to connect. We can discuss some meditative guides to aid you on your journey of experiencing the healing properties of nature.
Zac Spoon, CT
Sincere Counseling, LLC