“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home.
Wilderness is a necessity.” ~ John Muir
You Can’t Live Without Fresh Air
Humans spend, on average, about 90% of our time in buildings. Goodness only knows what that figure is now that many of us have spent weeks in lockdown across the world.
What is certain, is that our increasing disconnect from nature, combined with decreasing levels of physical activity, are beginning to have a profound effect on both our physical and mental health.
Excessive stimulation from technology can cause mental fatigue and loss of vitality. We prefer to focus on stress or distract ourselves by texting friends. Some of us block out the outside world by listening to music all the time. We are living too much in the realms of our troubled minds, to the extent that human mental health is suffering on a global basis.
In losing touch with nature, we lose touch with ourselves and this can often be the reason for our unhappiness. Our minds and lifestyles, especially in these current times, keep us separated from the natural world.
Shinrin-Yoku – The Art of Forest Bathing
In the 1980’s, the Japanese Government introduced ‘shinrin-yoku’ as a national health programme. Translated into English it means ‘forest bathing’ – being calm and quiet amongst the trees and taking in the forest atmosphere during a leisurely walk. It is an ecotherapy and has become a cornerstone of preventative health care and healing.
So many of us rarely take time to appreciate the beauty of sunlight through new leaves, or to experience what peace there is to be found in a gentle breeze. We are too wrapped up in our busy lives and leave little space for appreciation and contemplation of the simple things around us.
Forest bathing has become popular across the world and here in the UK, both the National Trust and Forestry England have guides on Britain’s most therapeutic forests. Worldwide, The Association Of Nature & Forest Therapy runs programmes and workshops across the globe.
We Are All Inter-Connected
Everything in the natural world is interlinked. When we look at a tree – it is not just comprised of a trunk, branches and leaves. Beneath the ground, its roots extend into the soil, absorbing minerals, vitamins, water, communicating with each other via a complex root system and underground fungal networks. Through these networks, trees share water and nutrients; they send distress signals about drought, disease and insect attacks, enabling other trees to change their behaviour. Older mother trees suckle their young saplings by pumping liquid sugar into their roots.
As human beings we too are interconnected. Sometimes we mistakenly perceive our ‘self’ to be separate, as if we are alone, just us experiencing our lives. But our own well-being is interlinked with that of the rest of life on Earth. We have forgotten how we depend on nature for our food, clothing, houses and medicines. Most of our clothing comes from plants, such as cotton. We cure our pains with Aspirin, made from willow-bark extract.
Trees release chemicals called Phytoncides, which we breathe in when we spend time in the forest. These have been proven in studies to enhance the activity of natural killer cells that help our bodies to fight disease and they have an anti-microbial effect on human bodies, boosting the immune system.
Mental Well Being
Forest Bathing is time well spent and combines the physical and mental wellbeing benefits of being in the forest with the spiritual benefits of meditation.
The benefits of being in nature are so powerful that even pictures of landscapes can soothe. By spending three to five minutes looking at views dominated by trees, flowers or water, we can begin to reduce anger, anxiety and pain and begin to experience relaxation and lower blood pressure. For those in hospital, or confined to the house, even a view from the window can make a difference. Studies by Dr Rober Ulrich have paved the way for many hospital gardens and hospital forests.
Benefits of Forest Bathing
- Reduce blood pressure – a crucial factor in maintaining a healthy heart
- Lower cortisol levels (stress hormones)
- Improved concentration
- Improved memory
- Improved sleep
- Powerful antidote to the pressures of the modern world
- Creates within you a profound connection to nature
- Rebalance mind and body
- Frees up your creativity
- Positive outcomes for attention, anger, fatigue and sadness
- Studies show children with ADHD concentrate better in woodland environments that urban environments
- Exposure to nature speeds up convalescence
Why I Wrote This Meditation
I have been stuck in a tiny apartment in a block of flats in London Lockdown for the past 5 weeks, following Government advice and have been going out just once a day on a short walk. I had begun to get very depressed and lethargic, absolutely craving nature.
One day in despair, I set off on my bicycle and discovered the most beautiful bike ride over Hampstead Heath, a large and ancient London heath covering 790 acres. The trail took me through majestic & veteran oak trees, some of which are over 500 years old and it was there, in that magical place, that my healing began. I returned every day, each time feeling renewed and invigorated, and I realised just how vital it is to bring ourselves regularly back into harmony with Mother Nature.
I wrote the following meditation, for those of you who do not have a Hampstead Heath of your own. I hope you enjoy it.
Spending time in nature can help relieve stress and anxiety; improving our mood and boosting feelings of happiness. But not all of us have easy access to a forest or even a garden. As human beings we have a deep connection to nature and if we do not nourish that bond, we can begin to suffer in many different ways.
International Psychic Medium, Ann Théato, will lead you through this powerful guided meditation, taking you deep into your subconscious mind, where you will experience the beauty of the forest as never before.
This meditation can be completed in less than 15 minutes per day.
Written and Narrated by Ann Théato.