Trees enhance our external environments. They’re nice to look at; they offer shade, they’re fun places for games of hide and seek and birds hang out in them. Trees improve our air quality, prevent soil erosion and can make great gifts.
I recently attended the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Assembly. Each attendee usually gets some kind of swag as a remembrance of the event, a cup or a bag but this year the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) donated 10 trees in the name of each attendee to support the reforesting of the areas surrounding Colorado Springs that were affected by wildfires.
I thought that was cool because not only will these trees do all of the above, they will create a space for our internal environments to thrive. Nature is so powerful that just twenty minutes a day in it can take our mind off stress and reset our bodily chemicals so that we retain more information with improved alertness, even better than a cup of coffee, says Arthur Kramer, director of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois. Parks dotted throughout our unban cities validate my belief that the founders of America knew a thing or two about the usefulness of green spaces and their contribution to our entire well-being.
The authors of books like “Your Brain on Nature”
and “Last Child in the Woods”
point to new terms such as nature deficit disorder, describing a population of irritable, depressed, anxious people with high blood pressure that are hooked into non-stop technology, fast paced social media and multi tasking who aren’t getting their daily dose of green pause-in-the-action re-life, re-boot. A study of internet-addicted Chinese teens showed signs of atrophy happening in the connective tissue in areas of the brain that governed behavior and emotional control. Ouch!
Japan’s Chiba University’s Center for Environment, Health and Field Sciences Studies research is proving that human beings have a strong attraction to green spaces, especially spaces with trees. Their studies are showing a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, lowered blood pressure, relieved anxiety and depression while boosting attention, memory and empathy when people are hitting the Forrest Therapy trails in Japan. Japan’s Forestry Agency now has forty-eight such trails called Shinrin-yoku, which translates into, forest bathing and they are planning another fifty-two trails.
I decided to do a 5-minute forest bath test. I live in a place where I am surrounded by trees, specifically pine trees that I can look at any time. It was a perfect time for a test, I was feeling anxious, a little irritated and needed a break. I went out on to my small concrete porch, set my phone alarm, struck a pose and concentrated on the trees. Maybe 2 to 2.5 minutes into it I felt myself relax. My shoulders lowered, my breathing deepen, slowed and physically my body lowered, shifted and centered. It felt like scales or armor falling away from my body. I relaxed.
And it doesn’t have to be an up-close and personal experience with the trees. We can get the same effects, just not as strong, by looking out a window at the natural world or looking at landscape photographs and paintings. In 2001 I was preparing for a major spinal surgery spanning eleven hours. Nerd that I am I looked into all the actions I could take to prepare for my surgery and hurry my healing. I felt the positive healing influence of my efforts.
Two weeks prior to my big day I listened to chants by Tibetan Monks to release my fear of getting cut open. Immediately after my surgery on the gurney journey back to my room they chanted healing tones in my ear for the next five days, non-stop. I discovered that photographs of flowers, trees and waterfalls could calm my body and mind so I plastered the walls with beauteous, glowing outdoor images in my line of sight.
The Society of Forrest Medicine
is a growing group of international academics that has formed to ask the question, what effect does nature have on the human immune system? Not only are they looking at humans in the midst of nature they are including how the smells of nature, pine, fir, cypress trees and dirt affect our wellbeing. Yes dirt has a positive effect on our immune system.
So if I can’t sit under the pine tree, I can look a photo of one and sniff the essential oil of pine and I begin to feel just fine.
Blessings to All, In Joy, Candace
Here is a good video!
It is 28 minutes so grab a cup of tea :)
© 2013 Candace Cable
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