Published 21 November 2019 by Courtney Tenz
Your dream wellbeing centre is often just a few steps away – in a nearby forest. The invaluable renewable resource of the forest is good for your body and soul.
For me, walking in the woods feels like a meditation, a demand for silent contemplation. And the forests are a feast for the senses. Taking in their unique scents – a heady mix of damp earth and lumber, of blossoming foliage or thawing earth, leaves me feeling calm, renewed. The dripping of leaves bleeding dew and rain from their heights onto the forest floor is a quiet melody. At the height of summer, the mix of pines and oaks, elms and aspens are a kaleidoscope of greens and browns.
I prefer the look of the natural landscape to a built-up environment – and I am not alone. Studies show that being out in nature promotes good mental health. We are better able to face uncertainty and respond to stress when in a place we find pleasant.
Forest therapy for all
This ritual of taking time out in the woods, it turns out, is good for both my spirit and body. In a study released by the National Resources Institute of Finland, researchers note that we can benefit from even a short period of time spent in the woods. In “The Effects of nature on well-being”, the researchers note that nature has a restorative effect, helping us to recover from everyday stress when we visit green areas for more than five hours a month.
Exposure to a forest has a positive physical effect as well: we’re more likely to lace up for a hike or trail run when there’s a nature area with recreation options nearby. Even a short jaunt into urban green spaces appears to stimulate physical activity – and as a result, lowers the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and coronary diseases. Forest therapy in which patients are told to regularly take a walk in a natural setting is becoming a new treatment prescribed by doctors for urban dwellers in large cities to combat exhaustion or overweight.
A source of livelihoods
Forests not only deliver better health. They also hold a unique place in each person’s life. Whereas the ambience of a thick forest gives me peace, for many others, it’s a source of their livelihood. And the trees provide us all with things we love – like books and magazines, renewable packaging materials and soon, the fabrics to make our clothing. Sustainable forestry techniques capture the magic of the forest while creating space for new growth and habitats for flora and fauna that may be endangered.
The invaluable renewable resource of the forest is itself a world of good – and it can do a world of good for your body and soul. Creating your own close relationship to the forest can enhance your life in myriad ways.
Courtney Tenz is a freelance writer who loves long walks and thick books and is always looking for new forests to discover.