Forest bathing is an innovative wellness trend that reduces stress. Research shows that it lowers blood-pressure and the heart rate.
Levels of cortisol, the stress-hormone are reduced too; rush and hurry are of the devil. Choose to be different and enjoy life in the slow lane.
Forest bathing is part and parcel of this alternative lifestyle.
I recently asked a psychologist what he felt was the one most important activity that we could engage in to improve our mental well-being. We were in discussion about the virtues of the Blue Zones, green living and more exercise; mindfulness, said he.
It does not take much imagination to note that blood pressure, stress and heart rate are the underlying factors of many chronic diseases.
Join me in starting a new trend of forest bathing for your family. Mindfulness interventions greatly improved the wellness of students during the pandemic; it's just as relevant today.
Forest bathing is about the mindful soaking up of nature, using all of our senses. What we see, hear and smell is key; and what we can taste too, of course. It usually involves some form of exercise, such as a walk in the hills, canoeing down a river or cycling through the countryside.
And of course, it could be swimming; or even perhaps a gentle non-competitive game of golf.
Our home is situated in what we call the Garden Cathedral. Several times every day we are privileged to take a walk amongst enormous old trees, birds of every ilk flitting about and a vegetable patch that is almost without equal.
Butternut and many different dark-green leafy vegetables are growing everywhere; a wild patch of lima beans and hens clucking around hunting for grubs catch the eye.
There's a mountain of fruit to be enjoyed, freshly-picked every month of the year.
It is however, not a tidy place. We do not stress over that; there are weeds everywhere and there is always something that should be planted, watered or shaded.
It has ceased to be work; it's where we have rediscovered our souls.
Forest bathing means listening to the gentle murmur of the breeze as it wafts through the leaves of the bushes and trees. We love the little brown-jobs that call from the Halleria Lucida, feasting on the beautiful flowers; and even the raptors calling for our chickens' attention. The cicadas and bullfrogs all add to the chorus line.
Soaking up nature was never more glorious; medicine for the soul.
Invoking and being mindful of the scents is central to our forest bathing. Slowing down long enough to take the time to walk and garden is part and parcel of the lower blood-pressure and stress levels we enjoy.
Relaxation in one way or another is essential to any seeking a life without medication; we choose forest bathing.
“I have to be alone very often. I'd be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning entirely on my own. That is how I refuel.”
Bathing yourself in a forest or garden often means there are sweet fruits to be enjoyed; for two-months we have a handful of blueberries every morning whilst hunting for our breakfast.
Thereafter it is gooseberries and other sweet treats.
Soaking up the divine scent of lime trees in flower brings to mind the many dishes that we enjoy that are so greatly enhanced by citrus. We always use the pulp as it contains more than half of the nutrients and vitamin C; it is a waste to squeeze for the juice only.
Citrus incidentally contains the most powerful proven nutrient that helps prevent dementia; make sure you have one or other of them daily.
Whether it is in the making of jams, a green salad or hummus, the lime is central to our wellness; just seeing the flowers and young-fruit is central to our garden walks and bathes in the forest. Take time to enjoy the powerful sweet scent.
Seeing the secrets locked up in that tiny flower, can you imagine bottles of lime marmalade?
Forest bathing as we experience it, includes immersing ourselves in weeding the garden; the hands are busy, the mind is mildly concentrating not to pull out important plants but the spirit and the imagination are free to wander. For us as Christians it is a good place to pray; for you it may be some other form of meditation.
I find it interesting that
in all five of the blue zones of the world, they grow and eat broad-beans; and they are religious. The garden is where they find nourishment
for the body and practise some form of spirituality. It does not surprise me that longevity is the hallmark of these people.
These broad beans, or favas as they are called in Europe are in serious need of weeding and staking; already I can imagine the taste of the sweet young fruit, something you will probably never see at the greengrocer. You have to grow them yourself.
Planting broad beans is central to our gardening; they are the richest form of vegetable protein after soyas, and one of the very few sources of L-dopa, better than medicine for those suffering from Parkinson's disease. I cannot confirm that it prevents the condition, but I suspect it does.
They are delicious in any case enjoyed straight from your plunge into forest bathing. Dopamine is sometimes called the happy hormone.
Grow broad beans for longevity is one of our newsletters; have you signed up yet?
Chewing your food thoroughly also surprisingly contributes to keep Alzheimer's Disease at bay; broad beans have a lot of fibre, making for a happy tum.
Li Edelkoort said it all; self-sufficient and mindful. We grow as much of our own food as is humanly possible, harvest the rain and capture sunshine. For us this is a large part of our understanding of forest bathing; immersing ourselves in our garden.
Forest bathing involves some deep breathing; that could be because of exercise or simply a deep consciousness of our air in a yoga-like meditation.
Every day some of our bathing would include quite hard work like turning a compost heap or digging a trench for humus.
Using the wheelbarrow to cart vermicompost or humus to the seedbeds beats going to the gym for exercise.
These activities are done mindfully, conscious that one is working with nature, not against it. New scents emerge as one tends the ground, often releasing the faint odour for example of citrus-peel buried months ago being released from the earth.
We usually enjoy deep, restful sleep after forest bathing in our garden; the gentle exercise, the smell of a rose and the taste of a berry plucked from a bush quieten the soul. It is where we find meaning in life.
Researchers reporting in JAMA Psychiatry found after following 1800 older adults that those rising early and following a robust pattern of activity every day were far less likely to become depressed and suffer from cognitive impairment.
Being constantly active for a longer period was definitely associated with cognitive function.
Forest bathing early in the morning would be a perfect example. Add to that playing games such a bridge, a hobby that demands attention and even cooking protects one from depression and dementia. There are absolutely no old-age homes in the Blue Zone countries; life continues normally until we die.
We find it interesting that we rarely have the need to consult doctors; forest bathing of our sort brings a wellness to the body and a calmness to the spirit. Our immune systems are strong; on our right and left, others fall prey to flu, colds and more serious illnesses. Mostly we are unaffected.
Forest bathing is more than hiking or gardening; it means mindfully soaking up nature with all of one's senses.
Go to the forest for a bathe, climb a mountain for the view or plant a seed for organic food; you will find your mood lifting and your tiredness evaporating. You might even see fairies or discover God.
As I update this page on the 7th April, 2022 some of the world is still under lockdown because of the virus. This little bug has shaken the planet having knocked off more Americans in the first three-months than all those killed in the Vietnam war.
The enforced stoppage has been for many a time of reconsidering what we have done to ourselves and the planet.
Forest bathing has for us meant better sleep, wholesome food and plenty of exercise at our green home; all of those speak volumes to our immune systems. More, it has been a time for reflection. I have a fanciful notion that for those who actively practise this way of living may find in it a kind of Passover; will the virus touch them as it has the rest of the world?
Only time will tell. Meantime we do wear masks in public and practise social-distancing but we certainly do not live in terror of this virus.
We went on a wonderful geocaching walk this morning, driving to Wittersham for the start. It led us along tracks and paths that we had never trekked on before and didn`t meet a single person throughout the day; just us.
We crossed many grassy fields surrounded with thick ancient hedges and over a few streams on quaint, small bridges; and followed a tiny farm lane at one stage where there must have been at least 200 Early Purple Orchids along the edges.
We passed a vast apple orchard. The white blossom disappeared over the horizon, the air humming with bees; we then crossed a number of highly-perfumed Oilseed Rape fields in blinding yellow.
It was a wonderful walk and we found most of the caches, some very cleverly hidden.
The sun shone down on us out of a blue sky; it was perfection.
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