Woodlands as a natural health service
The benefits of spending time in tree-filled places is being given the recognition deserved.
Spending time among trees as a way to combat stress is becoming more widely accepted by the medical profession as an alternative to prescription drugs.
I’m certainly not suggesting that trees can heal people from illness outright, but there is enough scientific evidence to show that, as complimentary therapy, spending time in tree-filled places can boost health and deliver benefits to general wellbeing.
The Japanese practice of Shinrin Yoku (forest bathing)became part of their national public health service in 1982. Encouraging the population to spend time among trees has been scientifically proven to lower blood pressure, slow heart rates, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system and improve general feelings of wellbeing.
Benefits of connecting with nature in woodlands
Spending time in a woodland not only helps reduce blood pressure and anxiety levels, but encourages the disengagement of attention from unhelpful thoughts and preoccupations, replacing them with soft focus experiences in nature.
As well as practising some simple sensory focussing activities, people can choose to get involved in a range of light woodland management tasks, nature surveys, craft work, foraging and cooking over a camp-fire. Feedback from wellbeing session participants has consistently been very positive in relation to the wellbeing benefits experienced.
At the end of the session, after a shared lunch around the camp fire, I asked everyone to share how the woodland had made them feel. The answers shared were written onto leaves made of card, which we then hung in the trees to gently flutter in the breeze. Responses included feelings of being “rejuvenated”, “refreshed” and “peaceful”.