My husband and I just returned from a camping trip. We’re not the hardy adventurers that some of our friends are, so you won’t be reading about great feats in the wilderness. But we find that just being among the trees renews us. We don’t have to DO anything but sit and breathe it all in and the benefits arise.
First the kinks in my neck and arm (from being so focused on my phone?) disappear. Then appreciation arises for the sights, sounds and smells of nature. Awe arises at the sight of the morning light on the craggy mountain peak, the last evening glow warming the edges of trees, or the first sighting of stars in a deepening clear sky.
It doesn’t take long to settle in and feel peaceful. A chipmunk comes and checks me out as I sit in my camp chair, intending to read my book but never really getting around to it. The sound of the rapids over rocks and around boulders soothes me. I can stay like that and take it all in for quite a while. Then curiosity arises about what’s around the bend upriver or we decide to have a picnic by our favorite mountain lake. And off we go without any striving sense of getting there. Ah, into the woods.
In case you’re not buying this, let recent scientific research have its sway: Here are five ways simply getting into the woods are proving to be beneficial:
- It may help prevent cancer. – A Japanese study showed a remarkable increase in the NK (natural killer) cell activity which also lasted for a month after the study group spent a few days in the forest.
2. Scents of the forest may reduce stress. – Many forest trees contain phytoncides that have been found to decrease levels of the cortisol stress hormone.
3. It may help with depression – a London study showed that areas with more trees had lower rates of prescriptions for antidepressants.
4. It improves cognitive skills. – A German study focused on children found that playing in the forest improved learning compared to being in an enclosed space.
5. Walking in nature can help lower blood pressure, according to a Japanese study.
So don’t take my word for it. And don’t feel you have to get all gung-ho and accomplish anything. You don’t. Just being there and following your natural inclinations is plenty good for you.
Is there someplace in nature you feel especially relaxed and at home? Please comment!