I’m a lover of Nature. It’s where I find peace, love to exercise and enjoy spending time with others too. At the weekend we went for a walk in some woods we’ve never explored before, just up the coast a little.
We walked around 10 miles, were lucky to have great weather and got to enjoy all the sights, smells and sounds of walking through densely growing trees. We had an added bonus of stumbling upon the most wonderful remains of a castle. After such a simple but fabulous experience, I decided to research the benefits to our wellbeing of walking in woods and found some great stuff …
It should come as no surprise that walking among trees has health benefits. I discovered Shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing” in my research. This is a practice developed in Japan in the 1980s that celebrates the health-improving qualities of the forest. Apparently just 2 hours of mindful exploration in a forest can reduce blood pressure, lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels and improve concentration and memory.
Just the smell of trees has health benefits. When I go into woods, that distinctive smell of pine trees, bracken, and warmed up earth immediately takes me back to glorious summer holidays camping in Scotland when I was a child. As well as triggering happy memories though, there is other science behind the effects of the smell of trees on our wellbeing.
Chemicals secreted by trees, known as phytoncides, have been linked with improved immune defence as well as a reduction in anxiety and increase in pain threshold. And there are studies that have shown that children with ADHD who play in a green outdoor environment, rather than an indoor or constructed environment, show a decrease in their symptoms. Even just living around more trees means a healthier overall mental state. I read of a 2015 study that showed that Londoners who live near trees take fewer antidepressants.
Of course, being in a forest also means there’s a certain amount of exercise going on and it’s not necessary to walk the 10 miles that we did to benefit. Exercise is a proven solution for many common ailments including fatigue, depression, anxiety and of course obesity. Combining the benefits of movement with the benefits of a forest setting is an extra-strong prescription for many health issues!
If there’s one good thing you’re going to do for yourself this week, perhaps it should be to take some time to take a walk in the woods or a tree-lined park. If you live near me, I highly recommend a visit to Mulgrave Woods at Sandsend – just beautiful!
Make it a great week ahead!