Just spending 15 minutes walking in a forest has enormous health benefits. Alive Magazine and CBC radio have recently featured experts who are exploring the ways that nature helps our nervous system and cognition. The Japanese refer to time with the natural world as Shinrin-Yoku – Forest Bathing. This does not mean literally taking a bath in the woods (although you can do that too if you like), but rather walking slowly, smelling the trees and flowers and bathing all your senses in the textures, sounds and gifts of the forest environment.
Watch this beautiful video for a taste of this ancient Japanese practice:
A forest bathing trip involves spending a short, leisurely time in a forest setting, for the purpose of absorbing the forest’s healing ambience. Key to the experience is the inhalation of wood essential oils, but visual, auditory, and other sensory stimuli are also important.The result? A host of health benefits, including a boosted immune system, an increase in cancer-battling proteins, and improved blood pressure, among others. Studies have also found psychological benefits, with forest bathers seeing significant increases in positive feelings and decreases in negatuive feeling
Doc’s Talk: What’s the connection between stress and time in nature?
Dr. Lem: There are two popular explanations for how green time soothes a stressed brain. The first suggests that humans have a finite capacity for sustained concentration. Busy urban environments make focusing more difficult, causing fatigue and irritability. But nature lets the conscious brain rest, replenishing your powers of attention and lowering anxiety. Another theory argues that affinity for nature was an evolutionary advantage. Landscapes with vegetation and water were ideal for finding food and avoiding predators, so their inhabitants survived longer and were less stressed. Although today’s humans roam cityscapes with blinking stoplights and shiny glass towers, it’s unlikely our brains have fully adapted to them. Research indicates that spending time in nature supercharges the benefits of exercise, a proven stress reliever. I often recommend that my patients seek out green space to optimize their mental and physical wellness.
Melissa Lem is a Toronto family physician who works and hikes in rural and remote communities across Canada Here is the CBC podcast if you want more info on the health benefits of spending time in nature.
At Selkirk College we are so lucky that many of the campuses and both residences are so close to walking trails.
What can you do to build some Nature Time into your college schedule?
Kekuli House Residence on Castlegar, Selkirk College Campus: Looking down over the Columbia River where is there a network of several kilometres of beautiful walking trails.