During your visits to Adkins Arboretum, or any natural setting, for that matter, have you noticed that being in nature clears your mind, relaxes your body and recharges your batteries? Well, there is science to back it up!
Shinrin-yoku is the Japanese name for Forest Therapy, which means “taking in the forest atmosphere.” It was developed in the 1980s to encourage urbanites to engage with nature and has become a common practice in Japanese preventative health care and healing; it’s even covered by insurance! Simply stated, visiting a natural area and walking in a relaxed way promotes physiological and psychological health.
Those of us who enjoy nature on a regular basis seem to know intuitively that we feel better and are more calm and rejuvenated. But science has proven the health benefits are real and include a boost in immune system functioning, reduced blood pressure and stress, improved mood and sleep benefits, an increased energy level and a boost in memory and learning capacity. Creative people such as painters and writers improve their creativity by as much as 50% by retreating to the woods.
Forest therapy is not a hike or excursion where the object is getting to a certain destination or gaining information from guides or research activities. It simply involves walking in a forest quietly, slowly and deliberately. Open all of your senses, taking in the sounds, smells, colors, forms and “energy” or “vibes” of nature.
This concept is certainly not new. Historically, ancient cultures have had an intimate relationship with the environment. These cultures have honored the sun, the moon, mountains, rivers, trees and the other living creatures that we share the planet with. These ancient peoples had an innate instinct to connect emotionally with nature.
On your next visit, leave the phone in the car and leave the Fitbit home! Walk, sit, or meander slowly and quietly amongst the trees. Tap into the healing power of nature and soothe your spirit.
You can practice Shinrin-yoku for yourself on Saturday, June 17, right here at Adkins Arboretum. Click here to learn more and to register.
by Lisa Winters
Maryland Master Naturalist