For years I had only stepped foot outside for my daily work commute or to run errands. Once I began to run for long distances outside, I felt a change in my mental attitude and my ability to handle stress. I knew from my climbing adventures and my long runs how soothing the natural world can be…how healing…but I decided to see if there was any scientific evidence to support this.
A scientist named Strayer decided to see how nature affects our brains and bodies. He and a group of scientists were motivated by such problems as obesity, depression and anxiety-all clearly associated with spending most of the day indoors. They measured everything from stress hormones to heart rate to brain waves to protein markers and what they found was that when we spend time in the natural world “there is something profound going on”.
In my search I found a “therapy” called Shinrin-yoku, it’s a term that means “taking in the atmosphere of a forest.” Developed in Japan during the 1980’s, researchers have established a rather robust body of scientific evidence on the health benefits of spending time under a forest canopy. Drawing upon mindfulness practices, participants take a leisurely walk on gentle paths, under the canopy of the forest with guided activities to help open the senses, hone intuition, and experience the forest as each person never has before. Imagine my surprise to find there was a place near me where I could experience this practice of “forest bathing” with a trained “forest guide.” I immediately signed up for the three hour walk. I will let you know how the experience affects me.