Our modern world is rapidly changing at astounding speed with technological and scientific advances. And while it is certainly convenient to have our computer adept phones at our finger tips, it seems isolation and a basic disconnect from nature has increased. While modern conveniences enable us to be more self-reliant, our need for live, interpersonal collaboration has decreased. Add to that the stressors of social media, and unfortunately depression, anxiety and loneliness are on the rise.
“Psychoterratica” defined as the mental health effects of being disconnected from nature is getting more noticed by researchers and the medical community. In 2020 Yale published a study which “point in one direction: Nature is not only nice to have, but it’s a have-to-have for physical health and cognitive function”.
Forest bathing, a term based on the Japanese term shinrin-yoku, could be an antidote.
According to Julia Plevin, author of The Healing Magic of Forest Bathing, the more time we spend among trees and plants, the stronger we feel the connection between our hearts and the world. What religious ascetics have known for two thousand years, modern researchers have confirmed with science and data. Spending time with nature and the immune boosting effects of phytoncides, essential oils exuded from certain trees and plants, aids in decreasing stress, heart rate, cortisol levels, and inflammation while enhancing mood, focus, energy, creativity, and compassion. (www.ncbi.nih.gov/pmc/articles)
Yet today, most Americans spend most of their time indoors or in enclosed vehicles.
“Forest Medicine” is becoming a new medical science and below are some suggestions on how to get started.
Find a forest path that is relatively easy to reach and let the space call to you. Turn off your cell phone and try to be present. Create an entrance to the forest and walk into it as a guest, setting intention for appreciation and healing. We are originally born from the forest; the trees need us and we need them. Before picking a flower ask permission, connect with a special tree, lie down on the ground, feel the moss and leaves beneath you. Look up into the sky and bask in the sun. Stay quiet and allow your thoughts to soften and listen for Nature’s wisdom response. When you step in the forest, feelings of ‘I’m not enough’ will likely start to dissolve as we connect to the web of life and recognize we are part of something much bigger than ourselves. Ask the universe for signs to follow; plants, trees and animals often carry symbolism. Finally, thank the forest on the way out. Gratitude and nature are a powerful packed path to increased personal well-being.
You were led to this reflection which means you are ready to start your own journey of reconnection.
The forest is inviting you now. Trust that nature is working alongside you for your own unique and wonderfully connected experience.