The best healing sanctuary in the world is all about forest bathing.
Mother nature at her best, is what we’re talking about today.
Science is now backing up the ancient wisdom of Ayurvedic medicine, about the importance of human beings being connected to Mother Nature.
A huge amount of research now exists on earthing. I.e. that when we take our shoes and socks off occasionally, or get in the garden we literally get an influx of negatively charged ions that come into the human body, and as if dowse the inflammatory fires that line our tissues. This is being shown to significantly reduce chronic inflammatory illnesses and pain, improving blood profiles, and helping regulate our body clock, particularly our sleep/wake cycle, and other circadian rhythms.
Now the science is coming out to show us the importance of connecting to Mother Nature generally.
Forest Bathing – Shinrin-Yoku
A famous doctor in Japan, called Dr. Li has spoken and written a lot about this recently. In Japan, they have a saying called ‘shinrin-yoku‘, and it’s basically the art and science about how mother nature, trees and plants, promote health and wellbeing in human beings.
It is absolutely profound. We’ve heard a lot about gut bacteria in recent years, that we have to eat certain foods, and do certain things to promote a healthy gut bacteria in our own colon.
What we now know is that the soil also has its own microbiome, and according to ancient wisdom, this actually cycles or changes with the seasons. But when we connect to Mother Nature, connect to the ground, and be in forests and natural environments, it’s likely that we actually integrate that microbiome to promote and strengthen our own gut microbiome.
We now know that trees elicit certain essential oils or chemicals (phytonicides) that allow them to communicate with other plants and trees, as well as to deter microbes or other invaders. A little bit like pheromones in our human body that we emit to communicate with other people. E.g. so we know what relationships are good for us, and what ones aren’t. These chemicals are now known to help clear our mind and lower our stress levels.
Pschoterratica, Biophilia & the Latest Research
Ever heard of ‘Psychoterratica’? It’s the fear or problems of being disconnected from nature. What about Biophilia? Biophilia came into consciousness in the 1980’s when E.O. Wilson, a biologist and author, said that ‘loving nature is part of our DNA’.
It all points to the incredible healing power of nature as evidenced by some really interesting studies recently.
One study showed that when people immersed themselves in nature for four days without technology, their creativity and problem solving went up by 50%.1
In a collection of four studies, titled ‘Can nature make us more caring?‘, people that were more immersed in nature became more intrinsically motivated. They were more caring, more community-oriented, less self-interested or self-centered. Those that were not connected to nature were more self-centered, more self-interested, and more externally motivated.2
Other studies have shown that when we connect more with nature – we forest bath, earth or ground etc – anxiety comes down, mental health improves, our immune system becomes stronger, we have more anti-cancer proteins, natural killer cells are stimulated among other benefits.3
Back to Ancient Ayurvedic Wisdom
All this is really just backing up the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda. In my studies in Maharishi Ayurveda, connecting to Mother Nature was always promoted as one of the highest medicines. Did you know that doctors in Scotland can now ‘prescribe spending time in nature’ to their patients? How great is that. Instead a drug or pill, “Tom, what you need is to go camping for e few days or take your partner for a hike in the hills.”
The question is, “how can we get out of our cities a little bit more, out of our homes, and reconnect to the profound healing benefits that mother nature gives us?”
How can we get out of our indoor environments and do our yoga outside, going for a hike, doing our walk, jog or even strength training out in a forest or a natural environment?
As evidenced by the Global Wellness Summit recently, the coming trends to watch out for in this space will be things like:
- Pop-up parks – so in urban areas, there’s going to be pop-up parks that we can earth and ground ourselves and connect to nature.
- Green exercise – a shift away from just exercising in a gymnasium, or doing yoga in a yoga class.
- In Canada today, they’re starting forest skating. Rather than going to the ice skating park, you’ll ice-skate through a forest.
- Forest Bathing Clubs – There’s already a Global Institute of Forest Bathing and a San Francisco Forest Bathing Club that’s very popular.
- Biophilic design – how we design our workplaces, our offices and our homes, so that we integrate the benefits of nature.
Traditionally, this was just about bringing some green plants into our office place or home, but also there’s a science now about designing things so we maximize natural sunlight, natural air flow, and a whole host of other ways that we connect to the healing power of nature.
They’re some of the trends so what can we do practically to use this knowledge?
Tips to Help
1. Do your exercise in nature more – Incorporate Green Exercise?
As we’ve said, get out of the yoga class or gym occasionally and do your strength training (I do chin ups on tree branches, push-ups on rocks etc), cardiovascular or flexibility work in a natural environment.
So you’re getting fresh air, you’re getting natural light exposure or sunlight and maybe even doing it ‘earthed’ (barefoot) if it’s safe to do so.
2. Make your home or workplace more nature friendly
Bring in more green plants, e.g. office ferns, spider plants are very good for keeping the air clean. Increase natural flow and try to get as much natural light in as you possibly can.
3. Earth or Ground Yourself More
E.g. having your lunch in a park, doing your stretches while touching a tree, taking your shoes and socks off and walking on the wet sand if you’re near a beach or a natural body of water.
More earthing tips at bottom of my Earthing Blog
4. Take your Social or Community Evens to Mother Nature’s Playground
Maybe instead of the big birthday celebration being in a crowded restaurant late at night, occasionally can you go back to the idea of connecting communally with picnics or outdoor celebrations? Saturday or Sunday afternoon picnics, birthday parties or other celebratory gatherings in a park or bushland rather than a noisy, smelly, claustrophobic cafe. You still get to celebrate, eat good food, but also get all the benefits of forest bathing at the same time.
5. Take Nature Holidays
Rather than heading Las Vegas or Shanghai for your next holiday, can you go camping or ‘glamping’? Can you incorporate hiking or nature activities instead of casinos?
They’re just some ideas. I’m sure by being creative, you can come up with a whole bunch of other ideas about getting back to nature more. And I’d love to hear them.
Today, a growing body of science is now backing up how ‘connection to nature’, as the ancient wisdom has always said, is one of the most profound healing forces on the planet.
And we just feel so much better when we do it.
I hope you enjoyed the article & happy forest bathing.